The armed robbery turned shootout at the Dollar General in East Knoxville raised questions about gun rights and self defense.
KPD officers said the shooting happened outside of the store, after the suspect left with cash.
"The employee followed the suspect out of the store and there was an additional confrontation outside of the store between the suspect and the store employee," said Darrel Debusk, Knoxville Police Department Spokesman.
The employee is a store manager at the Asheville location. Anthony Quinn Smith, 47, was not hurt. But, the suspect, who remained unidentified at last check, was found dead in an alley a block away.
Police have not said whether Smith was prompted to go outside of the store in self defense, or if there was a struggle that caused Smith to fire his handgun. Debusk could not comment on who fired first.
But, in a conversation with reporters, Smith admits he fired first, and said the suspect fired one shot back.
According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Smith does not hold a current handgun permit. The law does not require a permit to carry inside of a business, but legal experts said that this case could be different because the shooting happened outside of the store.
"Defense of yourself ends when the imminent threat ends. So a question arises when somebody runs outside of a store, what purpose were they running out there for?" asked Don Bosch, a local attorney and Inside Tennessee panelist. "Were they attempting to engage a potential assailant, who's no longer an assailant, or were they still in the act of defense, themselves? And, that could be a question in this case that we've recently seen."
Bosch said the unknown circumstances could carry a heavy weight on whether Smith could be charged, but the incident also raises questions that go beyond this case.
"These are issues that both sides of the gun control get concerned about. There are legitimate questions to be answered about the defense of one's self, the defense of property," said Bosch.
Debusk said KPD could not comment on the details of how the shootout happened, or confirm whether their investigation had similar findings to the audio recording Smith had with reporters at the scene.
"We're still interviewing some witnesses, we may have to re-interview some witnesses that we interviewed last night. And we're also reviewing evidence that we've uncovered from both scenes," said Debusk. "So at this time we're not saying how many was fired and how that played out. Just because it's still an open investigation."
Debusk said the case would be handed off to the Knox County District Attorney General's Office after the investigation.
Update 10:22 a.m.
A KPD spokesperson now says that they believe a deceased male found in an alley near Holston Drive Wednesday night was the same suspect who attempted to rob a nearby Dollar General.
According to a press release, the man had been shot.
Earlier that night, a Dollar General store manager says he fired at a man trying to rob him.
Police say a gun and other evidence was found near the body.
The investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed. Once the investigation is over, the Knox County DA will decide if any charges will be filed.
A store manager says he fired at a man trying to rob him Wednesday night.
The manager tells us a man walked in and demanded money. He claims he turned over cash to the suspect, then exchanged gunfire with that suspect as he fled the business.
A KPD detective on the scene tells 10News a body was discovered a short distance away from the Dollar General store.
It is being investigated as a homicide, but police are treating that investigation separately from the robbery, and as of 10 p.m. are not linking them.