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Two Gunmen Hold Police At Bay In Separate Incidents

March 21, 1988

Undated (AP) _ A standoff between Nashville police and a man who said he accidentally killed his girlfriend ended early today when the gunman fatally shot himself, while a gunman in Alabama apparently shot himself dead after killing a man and holding his wife and their two sons hostage, authorities say.

George E. Powell, 45, of Nashville died at 1:35 a.m. of a shotgun wound to the head at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, officials said.

Powell called police at 6:45 p.m. Sunday and told them he had accidentally shot his girlfriend, Caroline Campbell of Nashville, during a scuffle, said Buddy Mitchell, a hostage negotiator for the police.

″He says they both had been drinking and had a sawed-off shotgun,″ Mitchell said. ″He says they got into an argument over the gun and it went off and shot her. He dragged her into the bedroom and covered her up with a blanket and set the telephone on top.″

Powell, a sheet metal worker, told police he planned to kill himself, Mitchell said. Police said they talked on the phone with Powell throughout the ordeal.

At least 10 patrol cars and the SWAT team communications van were dispatched to the scene, and police sealed off the area.

At 12:45 a.m., Powell said goodbye to the negotiators on the phone, hung up and shot himself in the head, police said.

In Huntsville, Ala., Jerry Staggs, a 40-year-old city maintenance worker, died today at Huntsville Hospital after apparently shooting himself in the head as the hostage standoff at his mobile home ended, police said.

Madison County Sheriff Joe Patterson said Staggs was accused of killing Don Pressnell, 41, of nearby Athens, as Pressnell arrived Sunday morning at Staggs’ trailer along with Staggs’ ex-wife, Sherry, 29. The two were planning to pick up Mrs. Staggs’ 9-year-old son Michael.

Authorities said Pressnell, a former Athens policeman, was head of janitorial services for Wyle Laboratories in Huntsville and was Mrs. Staggs’ supervisor.

Deputies surrounded the trailer after the slaying. Staggs released Michael and another, older son from a previous marriage, and the standoff ended when a shot rang out and Mrs. Staggs ran out the door.

Capt. Robert Moder of the Huntsville Police Department said Mrs. Staggs told police her ex-husband had shot himself in the head. Staggs was found slumped inside the house, a bullet wound in his head, Moder said.

Patterson said Staggs had been arrested only two weeks previously on a charge of kidnapping his ex-wife and there had been an attempt to obtain psychiatric treatment for him.

″As I understand it, he was trying to be a macho man and told her (Sherry) to go ahead and get a divorce. He couldn’t accept it when she did,″ said Gary Porier, director of the Huntsville-Madison County Mental Health Center.

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