Family Of Deputy Injured In Courthouse Shooting Grateful

Posted at 6:02 PM, Jun 20, 2017

A family member of one of the two Coffee County deputies injured during a shooting at the courthouse said she is grateful for everyone who stepped in to help.

Deputy Wendell Bowen was shot in the stomach area by an armed escaped inmate Monday afternoon. He was transported to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga where he underwent a five-hour surgery.

2 Deputies Injured In Shooting At Coffee Co. Courthouse

"You never know what you're going to sign up for when you go to work, you never know if you're ever going to come home," Deputy Bowen's stepdaughter Cheria Qualls told NewsChannel 5. 

Qualls said the bullet pierced through her stepfather's only kidney but that all was repaired. He is expected to recover slowly despite initial life-threatening injuries.

Although she has not seen him since his surgery, Qualls said Bowen is able to speak again. 

"Thank you to everybody working together for a moment to get them where they needed to be or else the situation could've been significantly different," she said. "Thank you to all of them."

Officials with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said the suspect, Michael Eugene Bell, attacked Deputy Wade Bassett as he was about to be transferred following a court hearing. 

Bell grabbed the gun and shot Bassett and Bowen on his way out. 

Authorities said he went behind a home on Madison Street about a block away and shot and killed himself. 

"I heard a gunshot and thought the kids across the street were shooting off firecrackers," Dan Norfleet, a neighbor, said. "He laid there for about an hour or so before they moved him."

Bell was in court for a number of serious charges including domestic assault and kidnapping stemmed from an incident on June 2.

According to Coffee County Sheriff's Office records, that was his only arrest in the county.

Coffee County Sheriff Office Public Information Officer Lucky Knott told NewsChannel 5 that it is up to the sheriff to determine whether or not there will be changes to protocol following Monday's shooting.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Steve Graves spent the last 24 hours visiting both deputies in Chattanooga and Nashville. 

Deputy Bassett was sent to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for injuries to his hand and arm. He was expected to go into surgery later this week. 

"I would trust those two guys with my life and family's life," Knott said. "It could have happened to a young guy, middle aged guy or older guy. It can happen and has happened in other areas and we're just sad it happened here."

The Coffee County Justice Center remained closed on Tuesday. Offices were expected to reopen on Wednesday, but there would be no court hearings.