Katie Quackenbush charged with attempted murder of homeless man
Video by Michael Schwab/Tennessean
NASHVILLE — A Tennessee woman charged this week in the attempted killing of a homeless man had fired two warning shots, her father said, after the man threatened to harm her.
Katie Layne Quackenbush, 26, was charged with attempted murder Monday for the Aug. 26 shooting of Gerald Melton, 54, who remains hospitalized with critical injuries.
She was booked into jail Monday evening and released after posting a $25,000 bond.
Metropolitan Nashville Police Department detectives said Melton was “trying to sleep on the sidewalk” about 3 a.m. near Nashville’s Music Row when he “became disturbed by exhaust fumes and loud music coming from a Porsche SUV,” according to a news release.
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Melton asked Quackenbush, the driver of the Porsche, to move the vehicle, police said. The two then began yelling at each other.
Police said that after Melton walked back to where he had been trying to sleep, Quackenbush got out of her vehicle with a gun and the argument continued. She fired two shots at Melton, who was wounded in the abdomen, according to police.
Melton reported that the shooter got back into the Porsche and left the scene.
Suspect’s father: Homeless man threatened daughter
Jesse Quackenbush, the suspect’s father, explains the incident differently.
An attorney in Texas, Jesse Quackenbush said his daughter and her friend were being accosted by Melton, whom he alleged approached the Porsche as the women sat inside, threatening to kill them and making explicit and sexist remarks at Quackenbush.
“She didn’t try and kill this guy,” Jesse Quackenbush said Monday night, a few hours after his daughter was arrested. “She had no intention of killing him. She didn’t know that she hit him.”
Katie Quackenbush, a mother of a 5-year-old son, drove a friend back to her car when the women reportedly saw Melton harassing other women in the street nearby, her father said.
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Melton then approached Quackenbush and her friend in the vehicle.
“He comes up to their window and starts screaming in their window various threats, and something about turning their music down and that he couldn’t sleep,” Jesse Quackenbush said.
“I think she felt threatened, because she was threatened.”
Peter Strianse, attorney for Katie Quackenbush
After the man walked away, Katie Quackenbush got out of her car to escort her friend to a vehicle parked close by. She grabbed her gun and put a magazine inside.
Melton began walking toward her again, the father said, at which time his daughter told Melton she had a gun.
She fired two “warning shots” and then left, because Melton continued to approach the women, according to Jesse Quackenbush.
“She did say she closed her eyes when she shot both times, but they were warnings, and she thought she pointed away from him,” Jesse Quackenbush recalled.
Jesse Quackenbush said there was no indication Melton was injured.
Suspect has cooperated with police, father says
The women left and when they returned, Quackenbush’s friend’s car was surrounded by crime scene tape.
Jesse Quackenbush said his daughter obtained an attorney and eventually turned herself in for questioning by police.
He maintains she was wrongfully charged because she was defending herself from Melton.
“She has a son,” Jesse Quackenbush said. “She’s never done anything like this in her life. She had an eyewitness in the front seat.”
Quackenbush, an aspiring singer and songwriter who previously lived in Amarillo, Texas, has twice been accused of assaulting other women. One charge was dropped and the other is still pending in Texas.
In December, Quackenbush was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury in Potter County, Texas.
A complaint accuses Quackenbush of striking another woman in the head with a drinking glass.
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Jesse Quackenbush said Tuesday that his daughter was charged after “throwing a glass of water” in the face of her ex-husband’s girlfriend while at a restaurant “because of some insulting remarks.”
An October 2013 arrest on a misdemeanor domestic violence-related assault charge came after hitting another woman. The case was dismissed after the victim asked that the charge be dropped.
Jesse Quackenbush and Peter Strianse, Katie Quackenbush’s attorney, said Tuesday that the woman was Katie Quackenbush’s mother.
Police: Quackenbush never reported incident
Police spokesman Don Aaron said neither Quackenbush nor the woman riding in her car initially reported the incident to police.
Rather, a third party who located Melton with gunshot wounds called for help.
The police department didn’t hear from Quackenbush until Strianse contacted the district attorney’s office at the start of the following week, Strianse confirmed. The prosecutor’s office told police about Quackenbush’s potential involvement in the shooting.
As to whether the unarmed Melton had threatened to kill Quackenbush, as her father and attorney allege, Aaron said detectives are unsure what exactly was said, but don’t believe Melton kept Quackenbush from being able to leave in her car.
“There’s no doubt that there was an argument and yelling between both parties,” Aaron said. “The police department has no information that the SUV was being blocked or in any way being prevented from leaving that immediate area.”
Quackenbush’s attorney said Tuesday that an attorney in the area installed cameras around his nearby office because Melton had accosted employees “in this same menacing and threatening way” for roughly a year.
Brian Manookian, the local attorney, contacted Jesse Quackenbush after reading about the case, Strianse said.
Strianse said Manookian said he has surveillance footage of the Aug. 26 incident, though Strianse hasn’t seen the video.
Aaron, the police spokesman, said he wasn’t aware of a video.
Manookian didn’t immediately return a phone call for comment.
Strianse says Melton’s behavior toward Quackenbush and her friend warranted her firing the shots, despite Melton apparently being unarmed.
“I think she felt threatened, because she was threatened,” Strianse said. “She was dealing with somebody that came out of an extremely dark street in the early morning hours who comes out of nowhere and is banging violently on the car window. Somebody who appears to be either deranged, somebody who may be on some sort of drug, who seems completely unhinged, and that’s why she reacted the way that she did.”
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