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Manhunt under way after Tennessee police officer shot dead and another wounded during traffic stop

A manhunt is underway for Kenneth Dehart (The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)
A manhunt is underway for Kenneth Dehart (The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

A manhunt is under way after a Tennessee police officer was shot dead and another was wounded during a traffic stop.

Authorities in eastern Tennesse said warrants have been issued for 42-year-old Kenneth Dehart, who is wanted on suspicion of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm after the Thursday evening shooting, which took place at a traffic stop in Maryville.

Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong said deputy Greg McCowan was killed in the shooting after he and deputy Shelby Eggers initiated a traffic stop on an SUV in the 4900 block of Sevierville Road just before 8.30pm on Thursday.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) spokesperson said Dehart began shooting after he “would not cooperate with deputies” during the traffic stop and refused to exit the vehicle.

A stun gun was then deployed with “no effect,” the TBI said.

“At some point during the encounter, DeHart produced a gun and fired shots, striking both deputies,” the agency added.

A manhunt is underway for Kenneth Dehart (The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)
A manhunt is underway for Kenneth Dehart (The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Ms Eggers was shot in the leg and returned fire, Sheriff Berrong said. Her injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

She was transported to hospital, but has since been released and is recovering at home, the sheriff’s office said.

McCowan was also transported to an area hospital where he later died.

Police are now searching for Dehart after he fled the scene. He was last seen in the Wildwood area of the city of Maryville, the TBI said on social media.

Multiple law enforcement agencies are involved in the manhunt for Dehart, who authorities said should be considered armed and dangerous and shouldn’t be approached if spotted.

An official shows a picture of the killed deputy, Greg McCowan, during a press conference (Blount County Sheriff's Office)
An official shows a picture of the killed deputy, Greg McCowan, during a press conference (Blount County Sheriff's Office)

A statewide Blue Alert has been issued for Dehart and he has been added to the TBI Most Wanted list.

Following the shooting, Sheriff Berrong announced the officer’s death during a Thursday evening press conference, saying “it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done”.

“We had an officer killed tonight on a traffic stop, another female officer was shot in the leg, she returned fire,” the sheriff explained. “I’m so sorry that we’ve lost a young man. I talked to his family earlier. I apologised for not protecting him.”

He added that a $10,000 reward has been offered for information that leads to Dehart’s arrest.

He was described as driving a silver Lexus and is believed to now be on foot.

The sheriff’s office is asking that residents in the Wildwood area check outdoor security and doorbell cameras for footage that may show possible suspicious people or activity in connection with the shooting.

“We will get this man off the streets of East Tennessee and put him behind bars,” the sheriff said.