Circumstances of Wayne Mills’ Death Leave Many Questions

wayne-mills-2Yesterday morning, Outlaw country music artist Wayne Mills was shot and killed at a bar in Nashville by the bar’s owner Chris Ferrell at 5 AM in an incident reportedly started when Wayne was smoking in a non-smoking portion of the bar. Since then the sadness and shock for some Wayne Mills fans and friends has turned to anger, and understandably so.

No matter what the circumstances were that surrounded, or led up to the shooting, whether Wayne Mills was drunk, Chris Ferrell was drunk, whether Wayne was smoking a cigarette somewhere where he shouldn’t have been, regardless, this was a colossal, colossal tragedy that resulted in the loss of a father and a husband. And no specifics on the scenario that led to his death as they trickle out from authorities or get by speculated upon by friends and fans will change that whatsoever. Whether it was an aggressive altercation, and misunderstanding between friends, or simply an accident—a man is dead, and for what? Because he was smoking in a non-smoking section 2 hours after closing time? That is what makes the death of Wayne Mills so hard to swallow.

I’ve seen many people full of vitriol for Chris Ferrell. The first thing you have to understand about the circumstances surrounding the shooting is that Chris Ferrell and Wayne Mills were friends. They were at the bar at 5 AM, together, as part of an after-hours gathering. That doesn’t mean either man or both did not act inappropriately at some point, but they weren’t strangers in a bar brawl that went too far. They were buds.

The second thing to note is that no charges have been filed, and no arrests have been made up to this point, and the investigation is ongoing. Now that Wayne Mills has passed away, it will be an imperative by investigators to dig even deeper into this case to try and determine if the shooting was truly in self-defense, or if something else was involved.

I’ve seen a lot of chatter about how Wayne Mills was shot in the back of the head, and how this would be impossible for anyone to do acting in self-defense. Let’s let the facts come out before we jump to any conclusions. It could very well be that Chris Ferrell is a monster and deserves to be sentenced for Wayne’s death, but the police didn’t feel they had the probable cause to even detain him after their initial investigation.

As we very well know though, the police make mistakes all the time. The initial misidentification of Wayne speaks to that. We don’t know a lot about this case, but we do know that with a proper ID on his person, and a cooperative shooter, the police still misidentified Wayne for many hours after the investigation started. This brings many questions up about the thoroughness and accuracy of the investigation. But Ferrell made no attempt to flee, was cooperative with authorities, and deserves the presumed innocence until guilt is proven that we all would wish to be dealt with if we were ever found ourselves in a similar scenario.

At the same time, the innocence of Wayne Mills should also be assumed. If Wayne was killed in self-defense, what did he do to provoke a life-threatening scenario beyond lighting up a smoke in a smoke-free zone? Was Wayne Mills armed? Would a shot to a non-lethal part of the body have been more appropriate? Despite having a concealed license, did Chris Ferrell still have the right to carry that gun in bar, or while potentially inebriated? There’s a reason why many bars are labeled gun-free zones where fines and charges are higher, and it’s for similar reasons why bars have government-mandated closing times. The worst part about this case as it stands at the moment is that Wayne Mills is not only the victim, he’s also the perpetrator that Chris Ferrell was defending himself from.

In the end, the facts will come out and speculation will fall to the side, and people should be careful about appointing blame too quickly, or floating Facebook conspiracy theories. At the same time, it is an imperative on all of us to demand the facts and solid explanations to assure that if justice needs to be served, that it is, and in a swift, equitable manner. But fans can’t let their music preferences perforate their clarity of judgement. This isn’t about music, this is about a man who we lost way too soon, regardless of the circumstances.

This story has just begun. Let it be told before we rush to give our conclusions. We owe this to Wayne Mills, Chris Ferrell, and their families.