The man accused of opening fire inside the Opry Mills Mall earlier this year will not be prosecuted.
Authorities agreed on Monday that 22-year-old Justin Golson was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot Demarco Churchwell on May 3. Golson has been released from jail.
Authorities say the men had been in a months-long dispute before Churchwell approached Golson at the shoe shine kiosk where he worked.
An argument turned into gunfire near the Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Lids stores.
Defense attorney Mark Kovach says his client’s self-defense claim was proven out in several videos of the incident — showing Golson backing away from the argument with his hands raised — and through the text messaging and social media messaging history between the men, which was voluntarily turned over to police.
“When his phone was searched, that information was recovered, and the district attorney’s office must have found that pretty compelling,” Kovach said.
The attorney notes that in Tennessee, people are allowed to use lethal force when in fear for their lives.
“It was a pretty scary thing,” Kovach said. “I know Mr. Golson’s not thrilled. It is what it is.”
Meanwhile, the 21-year-old girlfriend of the man who died was charged with illegally carrying firearms. Policy say they found two stolen and loaded pistols in her purse while responding to the mall shooting.
Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Jenny Charles said an “overwhelming” amount of evidence showed Golson acting in self-defense. Although Golson went through a preliminary hearing, in which a judge was not convinced of that argument, Charles said additional video evidence became available.
“There is a lot of tension here,” she said. “The threats made over social media — the evidence shows that he was genuinely afraid.”
The prosecutor said she had an emotional meeting with the victim’s mother on Monday to explain the case.
“She, like any mother would, is upset. She’s lost her son,” Charles said.