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National Guard shooting suspect faced job loss, discipline

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - A National Guard recruiter accused of wounding three superiors near Memphis, Tennessee, had just been relieved of duty when he pulled a handgun from a "fanny pack" and began shooting, according to an FBI affidavit released Friday with a federal criminal complaint.

Sergeant First Class Amos Patton is accused of opening fire on supervisors after they told him during a meeting on Thursday at a recruiting center that he was being relieved of duty for misconduct. They told Patton he would be recommended for a reduction in rank and dismissal from the active Guard reserve, the affidavit filed in Memphis federal court said.

The complaint does not specify the nature of the misconduct.

Patton, 42, was formally charged Friday with one count of assault, and one count of using a firearm in a violent crime.

He appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Memphis on Friday afternoon, where Magistrate Judge Diane Vescovo ordered him held without bond until a detention hearing on Wednesday.

If convicted, Patton faces up to 20 years in prison on the assault charge and a minimum of 10 years on the firearms charge, prosecutors said.

During the meeting between supervisors and Patton, the veteran recruiter was told to retrieve government equipment believed to be in his government car parked outside the recruiting center, FBI Special Agent Matthew Ross said in the affidavit.

Patton was carrying a "fanny pack" when he returned and when he tried to access it, one of the guardsman shouted "Gun!" the complaint said. Patton fired the handgun as a senior noncommissioned officer subdued him outside the building. The handgun was recovered at the scene, it said.

Three Tennessee National Guardsmen in the room were struck by rounds, Ross said in the affidavit.

The Tennessee National Guard identified the wounded men as Major William J. Crawford, Sergeant Major Ricky R. McKenzie and Lieutenant Colonel Hunter Belcher.

Crawford was shot in the leg, McKenzie in the foot and Belcher was grazed below the knee, the National Guard said. A round also passed through a backpack Belcher was wearing, it said. All three were treated and released.

The incident occurred around midday Thursday inside a National Guard armory in Millington, which is about 17 miles north of Memphis.

The National Guard armory is across the street from the U.S. Naval Support Activity Mid-South facility, which manages personnel records. The Navy facility was locked down briefly as a precaution, the Navy said.

The incident took place just over a month after a contract worker opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard on September 16, killing 12 people before being shot dead by police.

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni in Nashville; Writing by David Bailey; editing by Greg McCune and Gunna Dickson)

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