Alleged cop shooters’ case sent to grand jury

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 12:07pm
Accused cop shooter Joseph Jackson enters a courtroom Tuesday. Jude Ferrara/The City Paper

Moments after Metro Police Sgt. Mark Chesnut was shot five times by an escaped Mississippi convict on June 25, accomplice Cortney Logan smiled before getting into a rental car along with his cousin and speeding away, according to police.

“I’ve seen the video,” Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas said of the onboard video camera, which captured virtually the entire traffic stop made by Chesnut on Interstate 40 near Bellevue. “It’s disturbing. It’s very disturbing that [Logan] could call himself a human with the face he made.”

Logan and alleged trigger man Joseph Jackson had their preliminary hearings in General Sessions Court on Tuesday where Judge Leon Ruben forwarded the case to the Davidson County grand jury.

The pair stand charged of attempted murder of a police officer.

Chesnut remains in stable condition and has been moved from Vanderbilt University Medical Center to a rehabilitation facility. He is expected to make a full recovery, according to Metro Police.

It was Jackson who approached Chesnut during the traffic stop while the 22-year police force veteran sat in his unmarked car.

According to Metro Detective Norris Tarkington, Jackson first approached the car to see if there was another officer present and then circled back a second time with a 38-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun. Jackson then fired five shots at Chesnut. Two of those shots were absorbed by protective body armor, but three hit Chesnut’s arm and abdomen area.

Jackson dropped the gun inside the police car and ran back to the rental car, which Logan had allegedly rented to help his cousin escape from a Mississippi prison.

Tarkington said the video on Chesnut’s camera shows Logan smiling and “almost laughing” before boarding the rental car and driving away.

Logan and Jackson were apprehended a short while later and are being held in lieu of $3 million bond.

During his testimony at the preliminary hearing, Tarkington shed some light on Jackson’s escape from the custody of prison guards employed by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.

According to Tarkington’s testimony, Logan entered a Greenwood, Mississippi optometrist office where Jackson was receiving care. Logan fired two shots into the ceiling and demanded at gunpoint that a CCA guard remove the handcuffs from Jackson.

Logan then took one of the CCA guard’s weapon, which was the Smith and Wesson gun used to shoot Chesnut. Multiple investigations by state and local authorities in Mississippi continue into Jackson’s escape from custody. Jackson was serving a life sentence for robbery and aggravated assault.

During his testimony, Tarkington said Jackson confessed the shooting during questioning.

“He said that he was sorry,” Tarkington said. “He said, ‘Nothing I can do or say can justify what I did. I didn’t have to shoot that officer.’”

Serpas applauded the performance of Chesnut, 44, on the day of the traffic stop. Chesnut pulled Logan over for not wearing a seatbelt.

After being shot, Chesnut was able to put his car in reverse and call dispatch about the incident.

“I think he did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Serpas said. “I think after he was mortally wounded he made sure he relayed information to other officers. Some could argue that he continued to supervise after he was shot. I think Sgt. Chesnut did what he was trained to do and most importantly he trained himself to survive and that’s what’s critical.

“It’s very important that this community recognize that this Police Department acted as a professional organization. While these people who shot Sgt. Chesnut exercised no interest in anybody’s rights but their own, our Police Department performed in a way where they could never say their rights were denied even though they denied Mark his rights.”

Serpas attended the preliminary hearing along with about two dozen other Metro officers. Serpas said he hoped Jackson and Logan spent the rest of their natural life behind bars and then added, “I hope they go to prison in hell as well.”