Two Nashville police officers were shot outside a store. The suspect is their boss’s son

Two Nashville police officers were shot outside a store. The suspect is their boss’s son

When Nashville Police Chief John Drake heard that two of his officers had been shot outside of a Dollar General, he probably never imagined that the suspected gunman was so close to him.

The suspect was later named as the police chief’s son, 38-year-old John C Drake Jr. He is accused of shooting two police officers outside of the store in La Vergne, Tennessee — 20 miles from Nashville — on the afternoon of 21 October.

La Vergne Police described him as “armed and dangerous” and asked the public to remain vigilant as he remains at large, with his face on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted List.

While the manhunt for the younger Drake Jr continues, here’s what we know:

The shooting

The shooting occurred at 2.23pm on 21 October at the Dollar General on Stones River Road.

Two La Vergne Police officers — Ashely Boleyjack and Gregory Kern — were investigating a stolen vehicle outside the store when they encountered Drake Jr. A struggle ensued, and Drake Jr allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot them both, according to La Vergne Police Chief Christopher Moews.

One officer suffered a gunshot wound to the left shoulder, while the second officer suffered a gunshot wound to the groin and right forearm.

Both officers were treated at the hospital and are now at home, Mr Moews said on Tuesday.

The suspect

Drake Jr reportedly fled the scene in a stolen car following the shooting.

He is 38 years old, 5’11”, weighs 195 pounds, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). He is also the son of the Nashville police chief. “He was last seen with dreadlocks and facial hair,” Chief Moews said on Tuesday.

The 38-year-old is now wanted for two counts of attempted first-degree murder; TBI is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to his arrest.

Drake Jr has a criminal history dating back to 2005; he reportedly has 59 criminal charges in Davidson County, according to WSMV.

He was convicted in 2009 of aggravated rape and charged with three different sex offence violations between 2015 and 2020. He was also found guilty of aggravated burglary, evading arrest, impersonation and other charges.

John Drake Jr is pictured in his mug shot from a previous arrest (Nashville Police Department)
John Drake Jr is pictured in his mug shot from a previous arrest (Nashville Police Department)

An ‘estranged’ relationship

“I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn that my estranged son, with whom I have had very minimal contact over many years, is the suspect in this afternoon’s shooting of the two La Vergne police officers,” Chief Drake said.

“He now needs to be found and held accountable for his actions,” he added.

The father said that, beginning in his teenage years, his son “resorted to years of criminal activity.”

The elder Drake previously distinguished himself from his son’s behaviour, saying in a police department video that he decided from a young age that he wanted to avoid prison. In the video, he mentions his upbringing, and said that as a young man he “could have gone either way. I walked to school with three other kids ... and all three wound up going to prison.”

He attributed his success to mentors, and “led me to want to help other people, too,” he said.

The police chief, in turn, has dedicated his time to serving as a mentor himself. He reportedly worked at the Police Athletic League for 15 years, “helping kids, building kids, building their relationships. Working on some of their environmental factors by having coaches as mentors,” according to the Associated Press.

Community response

Immediately following the shooting, a shelter-in-place order went into effect. On Sunday, the order was lifted; still, La Vergne police warned that they are “continuing our search efforts but ask everyone to remain vigilant.”

Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell issued a statement in support of the police chief.

“My heart goes out to Chief Drake, his family, and the two wounded LaVergne police officers. I know that despite our best efforts — including in their early years — we can’t be responsible for the choices of family members,” Mayor O’Connell said. “I support Chief Drake and stand by him at this difficult time.”