A Small Tennessee Town Was Rocked by A Friendly-Fire Shooting Thanksgiving Weekend in 2003
A Thanksgiving Weekend drug bust left a Scott County, Tennessee, sheriff’s deputy dead and his family with questions about the bullet that took his life.
35-year-old Hubert Dean “John John” Yancey had been a deputy with the Scott County Sheriff’s Department in Tennessee for just seven years when he was shot and killed during a drug bust at an Oneida, Tennessee, mobile home on Nov. 28, 2003.
His death led to years of litigation in state and federal civil court as well as a longform article in GQ Magazine and an eight-part podcast about the case that rocked the small town along the Kentucky border.
Sgt. Yancey, a husband and father of three, was the work partner of 29-year-old Marty Carson. Carson’s father, Jim Carson, was the sheriff in Scott County then. Marty had been on the job for nine years. With rampant drug use — methamphetamine specifically — rocking Appalachia, there was plenty of work for law enforcement to do as they dealt with toxic meth labs throughout the area.
According to news reports from that weekend, Yancey and Carson had reason to believe that there was an active meth operation at a mobile home in the Williams Creek area of Oneida. They were accompanied by two other deputies, Carl Newport and Donnie Phillips, as they approached the home.
Carson reportedly got permission to enter and search the home while Yancey and the other deputies were posted outside. According to a Dec. 3, 2003, issue of the Knoxville News Sentinel, Carson was inside the dark trailer when he thought he heard a shotgun being loaded in a bedroom, and he reportedly ducked into a bathroom in the hall to take cover. When a dark figure stepped into the doorway, Carson reportedly believed it was a suspect with a shotgun, and he fired.
According to a 2008 story about the shooting in GQ Magazine, it was Yancey’s voice that called out to say he’d been shot. In the aftermath of the shooting, the people in the home were arrested on drug charges, and Yancey died at the nearby Scott County Hospital. At first, authorities believed Yancey had been shot by one of the suspects.
During his autopsy, the medical examiner determined that it was actually a bullet from Carson’s service weapon that struck Yancey along his collar above his bulletproof vest. The district attorney declared the shooting to be an accident, and Carson was never charged with a crime.
Yancey’s widow, Lori, asked Carson to serve as a pallbearer at her husband’s funeral the following week, but that relationship quickly soured. Right before the first anniversary of the shooting, Lori filed a federal lawsuit against Carson, the sheriff, and several other sheriff’s deputies, as well as Scott County. The suit alleged that Carson killed Yancey intentionally because Yancey intended to run against Marty for sheriff in 2006.
Eventually, the suit was settled, and Yancey reportedly won a $5 million judgment against Carson.
As for Marty Carson, he lost his job in 2006 and died in 2021 at the age of 48.
Scott County chose to memorialize Yancey by naming a park after him. The John John Yancey Memorial Park is next to Scott High School in Huntsville, where Yancey met Lori when they were teenagers. There is a fallen officer memorial in the park where Yancey and other fallen Scott County lawmen are remembered.
Yancey is buried in the Fairview Memorial Gardens in Huntsville, Tennessee.