Should Bemis gunman have been in jail?
BEMIS, Tenn. — A tragic and violent day in Bemis leads to a tough question for the district attorney general in Gibson County.
Should Christopher Armstrong, the man at the center of a murder-suicide in south Jackson, have been walking the streets of West Tennessee Thursday?
Armstrong, 22, posted $50,000 bond after he was arrested in December 2014, accused of trying to rob Thursday’s shooting victim in Milan.
But records show that wasn’t his last run-in with the law.
“He shouldn’t have been out,” said Terry Graves, a neighbor of the victim.
Out of jail on bond, police say Armstrong shot and killed 67-year-old Velma Paulette Garrett Thursday morning inside her home on South Massachusetts Street in Bemis before turning the gun on himself.
“It needs to be addressed, and changes need to be made,” Graves said.
Armstrong is accused of trying to rob and threatening to shoot Garrett in Milan in December 2014, according to court documents. Police say his trial was set to start the day of the shooting.
Armstrong’s neighbor Jojo Robinson says he’s still stunned.
“It’s nothing I would expect,” Robinson said. “Nobody probably in the neighborhood would have expected it.”
The DA’s office says Armstrong’s attorney would have been given a list of witnesses in this case. He says that does not include phone numbers or addresses.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation records show Armstrong was arrested multiple times after the December 2014 incident for more than a dozen counts including driving violations and drug possession.
District Attorney General Garry Brown says had he known about those new charges he could have requested Armstrong’s bond be revoked, requiring him to return to jail until trial.
The DA’s office also says there’s not a system in place that lets them know when someone out on bond is re-arrested.
The Gibson County sheriff says his jail takes in between 50 and 60 people a week. He says they don’t have the manpower to check every inmate to see if they’re currently out on bond.
The DA says they checked Armstrong’s criminal history when he was indicted in June of 2015 but do not have a system in place to periodically check for new arrests before offenders go to trial.
Police say autopsies will be performed on both bodies.