SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - Opening statements are finished and witnesses are taking the stand in the trial of a former National Guard recruiter charged with opening fire at the Army National Guard Recruiting Center in Millington, Tennessee. Amos Patton faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted.
Investigators say Patton tried to kill four of his co-workers and fellow soldiers after he got demoted as a result of sexual misconduct. Patton denies the charges.
The first witness to take the stand was Lt. Con. Hunter Belcher. He testified about what happened on Oct. 24, 2013 when they held a meeting about the outcome of an investigation into a complaint against Patton. He said he knew it would be life-changing and that others had been briefed and prepared.
Belcher said he recommended that Patton lose his full-time job, lose a rank, and be removed as a recruiter. He was given the opportunity to voluntarily step down, in order to lessen the repercussions of the incident, and allow for a future in the Army National Guard. No decisions were made that day but Patton was placed on a paid 15-day leave.
After the meeting, Patton was escorted out to his car to retrieve some government property, according to Belcher. He returned with a black backpack and a fanny pack. Patton asked to use the bathroom and Belcher said he must leave his bags. That's when Belcher says the confrontation began. He commanded someone to "take him down" as Patton reached for something in his fanny pack. Patton pulled out his personal loaded pistol and fired six rounds.
"He looked up, pointed towards me and started firing," Belcher told the jury.
Those casings were later found at the scene. Belcher says one person was hit in the foot. He ran out the front door and called 911. The tapes were played in court.
"We have an active shooter at the National Guard Armory in Millington," Belcher said to the 911 operator.
He continued to testify about what happened after police arrived.
Patton's defense lawyer, Michael Stengel said, in opening statements, that Patton did not go there that day with an intention to shoot or kill any of his co-workers.
"I'm not here to blame the victims," his attorney said. "He didn't get there that day with intent to kill them. He entered with intent to commit suicide."
His lawyer said when Patton wasn't allowed to bring his bags in, he panicked. He said the shots fired that day were "wild shots" during the struggle and when he failed to shoot himself, he ran.
Tuesday afternoon Major Jeffery Crawford, who was shot in the leg, and Sgt. Major Christopher Crawford, no relation, both took the stand.
During his testimony, Major Jeffery Crawford said "I remember saying to myself, 'I got shot.' I don't remember what happened. I just remember knowing I was shot."
Sgt Major Crawford to the jury "I thought to myself 'I'm fixing to get shot in the liver and I'm dying on this ground,'" as he bear hugged Patton and tried to take him to the ground and Patton pointed his gun.
As each witness took the stand for the prosecution, the defense cross examined. They asked questions that could lead the jury to believe that a struggle between Patton and the others lead to "wild shots" and not intentional ones. Prosecutors say Patton brought his personal 9mm automatic pistol that day - fully loaded with a round in the chamber and 50 extra rounds of ammunition.
Jurors will hear from witnesses on both sides this week and WMC Action News 5 will be in the courtroom. Cameras and electronics are not allowed in federal courtrooms, but you can hear a recap of the day's testimony on WMC Action News 5.