Greg Thompson Jr. had dreams of enrolling in college to play football.
But reality made that tough, and the 22-year-old found himself working night shifts at a Lebanon factory to support his 2-year-old son, Dereon. Thompson was on his way home from that job early Wednesday morning, his father said, when a bizarre accident brought his life to an end.
Thompson was shot and killed by a Lebanon police officer after crashing his car in Wilson County shortly before 3 a.m. Police say the shooting was an accident.
"I'm (angry) about it," his father, Gregory Thompson Sr., said Wednesday. "It's really got my head messed up.
"I don't know what (the police) are trying to say happened. But I know my kid. I know his way."
Two Lebanon officers, David McKinley and Mitch McDannald, are on routine administrative leave as state investigators look into the shooting, said Billy Weeks, the city's public safety commissioner.
"In looking at all the cameras, all the policies were followed," Weeks said. "It was just the perfect storm of a nightmare."
The chase that led to Thompson's death started shortly before 3 a.m. Thompson was driving on the wrong side of the road and nearly hit McKinley's patrol car near an intersection just east of Lebanon's public square, Weeks said.
After both drivers slammed on their brakes, he said, Thompson backed up and fled down Carthage Highway. McKinley chased him. About three miles outside of Lebanon, Weeks said, Thompson drove off a highway embankment.
Weeks said McKinley went down the embankment to try to get Thompson out of the car. McDannald, who had joined the chase, stayed up on the road to cover him.
As McKinley walked toward the car with his gun drawn, Weeks said, McKinley slipped on some loose rocks. As McKinley tried to steady himself, he accidentally fired his gun into the air.
McDannald saw the officer's gun go off. Thinking that Thompson was shooting, Weeks said, McDannald opened fire and killed Thompson.
Weeks said that, to his knowledge, Thompson was unarmed.
"It's a terrible thing," Weeks said. "It's traumatic for the family. It's traumatic for the officers."
Neither officer had been disciplined while with the force, Weeks said. McKinley started in 2007. McDannald joined in 2006 and spent most of 2008 in Iraq.
Authorities said Thompson had some traffic violations but no history of violent crimes. Greg Thompson Sr. said his son had received a DUI, "and he was working through that."
"It's the only time that kid did anything wrong. He was always a good kid," Gregory Thompson Sr. said.
The younger Thompson graduated from Watertown High School and lived with his son in Lebanon, his father said. He enjoyed sports and worked long hours to provide for his son.
"He was a responsible person," his father said. "He was a loving, caring father and a good person."
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