National News

Opry Mills shooting suspect charged with criminal homicide

Posted May 4, 2018 10:07 a.m. EDT

— The suspected gunman in a fatal shooting that occurred inside Opry Mills on Thursday afternoon has been charged with criminal homicide.

Justin Golson, 22, of Antioch, is accused of killing Demarco Churchwell, 22, of Nashville.

Police said two or three people were involved in a physical dispute in the hallway across from the Old Navy store. One of the men fired at least two shots, striking Churchwell in the neck.

Churchwell was taken to TriStar Skyline Medical Center where he died from his injuries shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Police said Golson fled the mall and ran to a ticket booth across the street near the Grand Ole Opry and placed the gun on the counter.

A retired California police officer was inside the booth. He reportedly ordered Golson to go outside the building and forced him to the ground until Metro police arrived.

Golson was then taken to the police station for questioning.

According to authorities, Golson, who worked at the mall at a shoe shining kiosk, knew Churchwell. He told police their feud originated from a fight with one of Churchwell's relatives back in March.

Golson said Churchwell did not threaten him with a gun; however, police did recover two pistols from Churchwell's girlfriend, Alexandria Lavender.

Lavender, 21, was detained during the investigation. A witness reported seeing a gun inside Lavender's purse at the mall. Officers said they detained Lavender when she was slow to stop for officers at the mall. According to police, Lavender did not have a valid handgun permit. The weapon, a loaded 9mm Glock, was reportedly stolen from Davidson County. Lavender is charged with theft of property - $1,000 or less and possession of a weapon.

Opry Mills announced on Facebook that it would be closed on Thursday evening. They later tweeted that they'll open Friday morning for normal business hours. There will be an increased police presence at the mall, but police maintain that this was an isolated incident.

The mall also issued a statement after the shooting.

"Opry Mills Management would like to take a moment to thank the swift and courageous response of the Nashville Police Department with respect to a situation that took place earlier today on our property. We are cooperating fully with investigators and offering any assistance we can. We would direct any additional questions regarding today's incident to law enforcement."

The Nashville Fire Department tweeted that the victim was transported to TriStar Skyline Medical Center.

Police swept the mall as a precaution, and many other law enforcement officials were on scene. In fact, the Tennessee Highway Patrol was utilizing the parking lot at Bass Pro Shop for motorcycle training. Troopers immediately responded to assist the Metro Nashville Police Department.

The ATF has also responded to the scene as part of the investigation.

Metro Schools said three students were still inside the Academy at Opry Mills at the time of the shooting. Those students were evacuated to McGavock High School. Five nearby elementary schools, Two Rivers, Pennington and McGavock elementaries, Stanford Montessori and Litton Middle, were placed on lockout due to the active shooting situation. Buses from those schools were also held. Metro Schools announced at 3:44 p.m. all students had been dismissed after the lockout status was lifted.