GALLATIN, Tenn. – An inmate is back behind bars after he briefly escaped custody and allegedly held dozens of people hostage at the Sumner County Jail Wednesday night. One officer was injured in the ordeal.
Gallatin Police said 40-year-old James McCutchen was being booked into jail on charges of domestic violence, vandalism, and resisting arrest. At some point, he got into a scuffle with a Westmoreland officer.
McCutchen broke free from the handcuffs and managed to get to the driver seat of a patrol car. An officer was briefly dragged and injured in the incident.
When McCutchen was stopped by the security gate, he got out and grabbed a shotgun.
At that time, a sheriff's deputy encountered him and fired a shot after he allegedly raised his gun. The two were about 50 yards apart when the deputy fired the shot.
The bullet missed McCutchen, who then made his way inside the visitor's center where several people, including children, were visiting loved ones.
Witnesses told NewsChannel 5 there were about 30 people inside at the time.
"We was sitting down on the bench waiting for someone to come down to the visitor's desk when he walked in, and then he told everyone to get on the ground and we got on the ground and about ten minutes later police came in there," said 10-year-old Justin Perry.
“My wife and my daughter were standing right by the doors and he put his gun in my wife’s face and told her she better lock the doors or he was going to blow her head off,” said Chris Whitaker who was in the visitation are with his family.
A corrections officer and a citizen teamed up to take McCutchen down. Sheriff Sonny Weatherford said he pointed the gun at a child, at which point the citizen rushed and punched him in the face.
“He pointed to this little girl and said come here little girl, who do you belong to and then that’s when this gentleman stepped up and grabbed this guy’s gun and basically tackled him to the ground and starting wailing on him, hitting him,” said Whitaker.
He was tackled and detained until more law enforcement personnel arrived on the scene.
McCutchen was re-booked into the jail on additional charges of especially aggravated kidnapping for each person at the visitation center, along with three counts of aggravated assault. He was held on a $500,000 bond.
Witnesses like Whitaker say if it hadn't have been for the civillian that stopped McCutchen things could have been much worse.
“I owe my family’s life to him. There’s nothing you can say," said Whitaker. "How can you thank somebody for that? I mean he saved my family.”
Gallatin Police have been investigating as a third party since a Sumner County deputy fired his gun. They are still reviewing surveillance video.
The Westmoreland officer was expected to be alright. His identity was not known.