Three people were killed Monday when a Henry County business owner shot two women to death, including his estranged wife, and then killed himself.
The incident took place at Indoor Comfort, a heating/cooling business at 9060 Hwy. 79 northeast of Paris.
Bobby Mercer is believed to have shot his wife, Amanda Mercer, shortly after 9 a.m. at the business. Moments later, he shot Cindy Townsend, an employee of the business, while she was dialing 911.
Two other employees of the business were present in the front porch area of the business when Bobby Mercer shot his wife. Those employees were able to run away and escape as Bobby Mercer entered the building. No ages were available on the two victims or on Bobby Mercer.
Henry County Sheriff’s Department officials and numerous other law enforcement agencies were on the scene for about nine hours, and both sides of the divided Highway 79 were closed during that time — at the Sulphur Wells Academy Road turnoff on the southwest end and at the Oak Grove Road South turnoff on the northeast end.
Sheriff Monte Belew said the Mercers had been going through a divorce. They were co-owners of Indoor Comfort. He said Bobby Mercer entered the business with a weapon, shot and killed his wife in the front porch area, and, as two workers were running away, he went inside.
Townsend had called 911 when Amanda Mercer was shot, and, in fact, she was on the telephone with 911 when Bobby Mercer shot and killed her.
After officers arrived at the scene, Belew began negotiating with Mercer by telephone, though Belew said Mercer seemed to want to send text messages more than talk. Mercer apparently told authorities he had a hostage, though Amanda Mercer and Townsend were already dead by then.
STANDOFF ENDS AFTER EIGHT HOURS
After several hours of negotiations, multiple assault teams approached the building at about 4 p.m. — the Sheriff’s Department’s SRT (Special Response Team), Paris Police Department’s FAST (Felony Arrest Search and Tactical) unit, and a Tennessee Highway Patrol assault unit.
There was also a robot brought to the scene and sent into the building. The robot provided video images of the building’s interior to officers on the outside.
Belew said tear gas was then used inside the building, and officers began actually tearing the sides off of the building.
Amanda Mercer’s body was found near the front of the building and taken out by officers, while Bobby Mercer was barricaded in one of the back rooms.
Shortly before 5:30 p.m., officers found Bobby Mercer dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Townsend’s body was recovered from the building at that point as well.
“This is a terrible outcome,” Belew said. “It’s been a long day. We have three deaths in Henry County — three major losses. We send out our prayers to the families — the Townsends, the Mercers, and Amanda’s family (her maiden name was Amanda Owen.)”
Among the many law enforcement agencies who offered aid at the scene, Belew said, was the THP, which also brought a helicopter which landed on the front lawn of Covenant Ranch across the highway from Sulphur Well Academy Road.
Belew said the FBI and Secret Service were also present, as well as many local agencies.