Plainclothes cop shoots gunmen, ends robbery spree

Nashville Police Officer Justin Fox was at the right place at the right time to shoot three masked gunmen in a hotel lobby


BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — An overnight robbery spree in the Nashville metro area was halted by a plainclothes police officer who encountered the three masked men early Thursday morning at a hotel in the suburbs just south of the Music City.

Three suspects reportedly burst into the lobby of the Hyatt Place Hotel in the small hours of the morning on March 25th, after allegedly already robbing three people at another location in town. Unfortunately for them, 35-year-old Officer Justin Fox was already there — purely by chance — as part of an unrelated, ongoing investigation at the hotel.

The gunmen had forced the hotel clerk to give them cash when Officer Fox and an unnamed undercover cop from another agency entered the lobby at about 0230 hours.

The suspects then ordered the officers to the floor at gunpoint, striking and kicking both men while threatening to kill them, according to a Department press release made available to PoliceOne late Thursday afternoon.

Nashville NBC TV affiliate WSMV had reported during its early morning broadcast today that the Nashville cop, “in defense of his own life and the lives of others in the lobby, shot all three suspects.”

Later in the day, Nashville PD provided some much-needed detail.

“Before Officer Fox went completely to the ground,” said the Nashville PD press release, “he pulled out his department issued handgun, turned around, and fired on all three suspects in defense of himself and the other officer who did not fire a weapon. The suspects did not return fire. A handgun, dropped by one of the suspects, was recovered from the lobby floor.”

Even as new details slowly emerged throughout the day, Jim Glennon, Lead Instructor for the Street Survival Seminar told PoliceOne, “Here’s the thing: life changes fast. You can go from a bike theft, an animal complaint, a domestic issue, or a traffic accident — to taking a life — within seconds. This officer did a great job physically but maybe more importantly he was mentally and psychologically prepared, which is a different animal altogether. There are a lot of officers who can earn a sharpshooter, marksman, or master shooting badge. Adapting to the dynamic reality of real deadly force situations and acting outside of the static training environment is what separates this officer from many others.”

“Being unexpectedly pulled into the middle of an armed robbery is pretty damn frightening,” adds Street Survival Seminar Instructor Betsy Brantner Smith. “In that moment, Officer Fox needed to assess the situation and make some very critical decisions, quickly, and correctly. To be able to draw and deliver multiple rounds to multiple offenders is the epitome of When/Then thinking, and this officer’s response is a lesson to all of us.”

Glennon spoke also of his friend and colleague Bob Nicholas, a Sergeant from Elmhurst Police Department and trainer at the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy in Glen Ellyn, Ill. “Bob tells his academy classes: ‘This is the only job where you can save a life, take a life, and or lose a life in an eight-hour period. You never know when one of those moments will present itself. You have to be prepared whenever a door opens’.”

Brantner-Smith concludes, “In the Seminar we teach: ‘On duty, you go to calls. Off duty, some calls come to you.’ This is often the case when we’re in plainclothes as well. We have to decide how critical this situation is and should we take action or just be a good witness until the uniforms arrived. If we decide to take action, can we do it safely, tactically, legally? Are we going to make the situation better or worse by getting involved? Will more innocent people get hurt as a result of my actions? There is so much to consider in that one-quarter of a second that all cops get to make those life and death, million dollar decisions, which is why we recommend that you think about and visualize various scenarios, like being the victim of a robbery while in plainclothes, and decide in advance how you’re going to respond.”

The masked gunmen, two of whom were critically injured, fled in a maroon van, but Officer Fox followed them in his unmarked car and called in to dispatch their direction of flight. The suspects were soon apprehended as they drove north on Interstate 65 into Nashville. When police searched the van, purses and wallets from the night’s earlier robberies were discovered.

The suspects, identified as Deaunte Carter, 23, Rory Gilmer, 22, and Antonio Leggs, 20, were taken to nearby Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where Carter and Gilmer are reportedly in critical condition. Leggs is in stable condition.

In 2008, Carter was convicted of facilitation of aggravated robbery and sentenced to eight years. Leggs has two previous theft convictions, and Gilmer has been arrested 11 times for driving offenses and for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The website for the local newspaper, Tennessean.com, indicated that Officer Fox — a 12-year veteran who reportedly has never before been in a shooting incident — is on routine administrative assignment following the shooting.

We’re standing right there beside you Officer Fox. Job well done!

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 800 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.

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