Nashville bar owner Chris Ferrell told police he shot singer Wayne Mills in self defense after the two men got into an argument about Mills smoking in a no-smoking zone at Ferrell's Pit and Barrel bar. MSN reported on Jan. 17 that an autopsy report shows Mills died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head during the Nov. 23 shooting, despite having two broken ribs and multiple bruises and scrapes.
Self defense is doubted in this case, according to the Tennessean, which reported that the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department says evidence found during their investigation makes this a case of second degree murder instead.
Chris Ferrell had confronted Wayne Mills about something. He said it was smoking in a no smoking area. But that seems an unlikely motive for what followed. The two ended up fighting physically, which might have supported a claim of self defense if Mills had been shot any way other than in the back of the head. But the Nashville police cannot overlook the fact that Mills was no longer a physical threat to Chris Ferrell when the bar owner opened fire on the singer.
Investigation evidence shows that the amount of physical distance that had to exist between Mills and the gun-holding Ferrell at the time of the shooting does not support a claim of self defense. And the autopsy report confirms this conclusion, stating in it that "there was no evidence the gun was fired at close range."
If the gun was not fired at close range that can only mean that the two men had stopped fighting or that one of them had managed to incapacitate the other and move away from him. Since the fatal gunshot wound was to the back of Mills' head, he was not facing his murderer at the time he was shot, and therefore it means he was not a physical threat when the bullet pierced his skull.
Even if Ferrell says he feared Mills would start fighting him again, he would have had to wait until that possibility began to occur to have been justified to shoot in self defense. But he opened fire when the other man wasn't even facing him. And that, more than anything else, is why the police say this wasn't a case of self defense.
Atlanta Top News Examiner Radell Smith has a degree in criminal justice and behavioral forensics.