Feds probe ties between shootout, USPS slayings

Federal investigators are trying to figure out if a police-related shooting in southwest Tennessee this week that left a teenager dead and his father in jail is linked to the fatal shooting of two U.S. postal workers last fall.

The site of Monday's shootout near Mason is about 20 miles from the post office in Henning where a retail clerk and letter carrier were shot to death on Oct. 18.

U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigators are checking to see if the gun that police say 18-year-old Chastain Montgomery Jr. fired at officers Monday was also used in the post office crime, Mason Police Chief James Paris told The Associated Press on Thursday. Paris said he isn't involved in the investigation because he was at the shootout, but he said he is being kept informed of the probe's progress.

The teenager's father, also named Chastain Montgomery, was arrested when he went to the scene of the shootout and tried to get in the stolen pickup truck his son had been driving.

Montgomery Sr., a state prison guard, was carrying dye-stained cash, and his home in the Nashville suburb of La Vergne was searched that evening for guns, money from recent bank robberies, stolen property and dark clothing, according to warrants in the case.

The FBI, U.S. Attorney's office and the postal inspection service declined to comment Thursday.

The possible link between the two cases was reported earlier by WMC-TV.

Authorities had posted a $50,000 reward — and never suggested a motive — in the deaths of postal workers Paula Robinson, 33, and Judy Spray, 59. In November, relatives of the victims pleaded with those living around the small town of Henning for help in solving the case.

It had dropped out of the headlines until this week.

The younger Montgomery was fatally shot Monday morning after a police chase through two counties.

The sheriff's office in Tipton County, just north of Memphis, said Montgomery got out of a stolen pickup armed with two handguns and fired at officers several times before a deputy from Haywood County, where the chase had begun, shot him dead.

The elder Montgomery showed up about 90 minutes later, according to warrants filed in Tipton County General Sessions Court.

He ran through the crime scene tape, ignoring the shouted warnings of officers and headed straight for the stolen truck his son had been driving, which was still running.

Officers had to pull Montgomery away and fight him to the ground, the warrants said.

Both he and his son were carrying bills that came from a bank robbery and had been stained when a dye pack exploded and marked them, the documents said.

Montgomery remains in jail on charges of evidence tampering, being an accessory, theft between $1,000 and $10,000 and resisting arrest. His first court appearance is scheduled for Friday.

Chief Deputy Donna Turner declined to say if Montgomery has given a statement to police.

Nashville police had been trying to arrest the younger Montgomery, also of La Vergne, since Jan. 5 on an attempted murder warrant issued after another teenager was shot. Police said the suspect knew the victim from high school and the two had been involved in an earlier altercation.

The stolen pickup came from a carjacking a few hours before the shootout, Nashville police said.

A gunman wearing a ski mask held up a construction superintendent at a job site and demanded the keys to his pickup truck, wallet and cell phone. When the victim turned over the items, police said the robber told him, "I'll let you live."

Police used the truck's anti-theft device to track it 150 miles west, setting off the chase with the younger Montgomery.

Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said the elder Montgomery has been a correctional officer at DeBerry Special Needs Facility since 2002. He has worked in state government since 1989 in various jobs with the Correction and Children's Services departments.

In Henning on Thursday the post office remained closed with a U.S. flag outside still flying at half staff.

Henning Mayor Michael Bursey said the slayings have shaken the town of 970 people. The community decided to give up its annual Christmas parade in December and instead held a prayer vigil for the victims.


Loller reported from Nashville, Tenn.