Witnesses take the stand in the Amos Patton trial

Witnesses take the stand in the Amos Patton trial
Those casings were later found at the scene. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
Those casings were later found at the scene. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, 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. Col. 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.  No decisions were made that day but Patton was placed a paid 15-day leave.

After the meeting Patton was escorted out to 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 said in opening statements 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.

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 at 6 p.m.

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