Tennessee officer suspended after suspect shoots, kills himself in patrol car

GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – A suspect reportedly shot himself and died in the back of a Gallatin police car, and the officer was suspended.

Officers were called to the Waffle House just after midnight on May 5 after they received a call about a man who reportedly pulled a knife on the staff.

The suspect was identified as 27-year-old Wendell Wilson, and the Gallatin Police Department says the man who arrested him made some serious mistakes.


Dash cam footage from the night shows Officer Caleb Helson rolling up to the scene. Wilson is wearing an overcoat and multiple layers of clothing.

The 27-year-old reportedly has a guitar on his back and refuses to obey the officer’s initial commands to stop.

Officer Helson is heard saying, “Step back! I’m going to Tase you!” and “Put your hands in the air!”

The three-year vet eventually handcuffed Wilson, but police later said the cuffs were too loose; they weren’t double cuffed or checked.

On tape, you can hear Officer Helson question Wilson. He asks where the alleged knife is, and Wilson says it’s inside.

“It’s in the restaurant? You don’t have anything on you?” the officer asks.

“No,” Wilson is heard replying.

The dash cam video then shows Officer Helson search the suspect, who’s in multiple layers of clothes with pockets both inside and out.

Wilson asks him to stop multiple times, describing many of the items in his pockets, but continually denying that he has any weapons on his person.

The officer reportedly find a lot of items, including .22 caliber bullets.

He asks Wilson what they’re for, and he replies, “It’s an heirloom.”

The one thing Officer Helson doesn’t locate is a loaded gun, a tiny .22 caliber Deringer hidden somewhere in a deep coat pocket.

On the way to the jail, Wilson is seen struggling to get his hands out of the cuffs, and once the police is pulled into the sally port, Officer Helson notices he is free.

“What are you going with your handcuffs back there? Put your hands back behind your back,” the officer is heard saying.

But by the time Officer Helson realizes what’s going on, it’s too late.

As jail staff attend to the lifeless Wilson, you can hear the officer say, “He shot himself. I didn’t even know he had a gun. He must have had it concealed somewhere.”

Gallatin Police Department spokesman Bill Storment told News 2 that not securing the suspect properly and not searching him thoroughly led to the deadly shooting.

“I think in reviewing the video, the officer found bullets for a 22. He should have been more diligent, looking to see if he could locate a 22 that went with the bullets,” Storment explained.

Officer Helson was suspended for four days without pay. He was retrained on how to handcuff and search suspects.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation investigated the case and handed its results to the district attorney. No criminal wrongdoing was found.

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