- Wayne Mills funeral will be held on Sunday, December 8th. A memorial service will be held in his hometown of Arab, Al at the Arab High School auditorium. Visitation will be held from 9AM until 1PM CST, with the memorial service beginning at 1:30PM, followed by a private burial.
- Investigation into the Mills death is ongoing. Investigators have met with District Attorneys.
- Autopsy conducted on Wayne’s body. Results could take weeks or months.
- Wayne Mills shot three times, once in the back of the head.
Fans and friends of fallen country music songwriter and performer Wayne Mills gathered on Saturday (11-30) at the Somewhere on the Lake Resort on the shores of Lake Guntersville in Alabama for a remembrance of the artist that was shot and killed November 23rd at the Pit & Barrel Bar in Nashville. The 44-year-old Wayne Mills was originally from nearby Arab, AL, and was once a walk-on for the University of Alabama football team. Fellow native Alabaman Jamey Johnson was one of the notable attendees of the gathering, and a silent auction was held with the proceeds going to the Mills family. Other benefits are set to transpire on December 4th at the Tin Roof in Nashville, and the Knotty Pine
in Cincinnati. The Wayne Mills funeral is set to occur on Sunday (12-8).
Weighing heavy on the minds of the Wayne Mills family, friends, and fans attending the remembrance was the still unresolved nature of his passing. Ten days after, and still no arrest has been made, and no resolution to the death that Chris Ferrell, the owner of the Pitt & Barrel Bar and the man that fatally shot Wayne Mills, says happened in self-defense after an altercation erupted when Wayne was smoking in a non-smoking area. It was 5 AM and The Pit & Barrel had been closed for hours. The two men were hanging out together after attending the George Jones Memorial Concert at the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville earlier that night.
Chris Ferrell is the only direct witness to Wayne Mills’ death. There is no other story corroborating Chris Ferrell’s claims, and Wayne Mills is unable to defend himself either in the justice system or the court of public opinion. Information and details about the killing remain scarce, with more questions than answers so far for those searching for closure and resolution. Why has Chris Ferrell not been arrested or been charged with any crime, or at least been named as a suspect? Why for nearly 10 hours after the shooting and for many hours into the investigation were police working under the pretense that the victim was another Nashville songwriter Clayton Mills, and not Wayne Mills? Why did the witnesses that called the police misidentify Wayne, and why did it take so long for Nashville Police investigators to discover the mistake?
According the the Nashville Police Department, the death of Wayne Mills is considered a homicide investigation, and that investigation is still ongoing. On November 25th, investigators from Nashville’s Central Precinct Department met with the District Attorney’s office to discuss the evidence gathered, and determined that no charges would be brought at that time. Central Precinct detectives remain in close contact with District Attorneys to determine if charges need to be filed as the investigation continues. On November 26th, the autopsy of Wayne Mills was performed, but according to the Medical Examiner’s office, it could be as long as 8 to 14 weeks after the death before any final conclusions are made, and the Medical Examiners Office does not release preliminary conclusions.
Saving Country Music has also confirmed that the fatal shot to Wayne Mills was to the back of the head. Reports that he was shot additional times are unconfirmed. This is the piece of information that many Wayne Mills fans and friends feel clears Wayne from being implicated as being killed in self-defense. How could someone with their back to a shooter be a threat to their life?
Though this may make sense intuitively, forensics and crime scene investigation is a much more complex science, and a shot to the back of the head may not equate to the smoking gun investigators and prosecutors need to make an arrest. If the two men were engaged at close range in a physical altercation, if Wayne Mills was pinning Chris Ferrell around the abdomen, a shot to the back of the head may have been Ferrell’s only option. But Saving Country Music has also learned that the fatal shot to Wayne Mills was fired across the Pit & Barrel bar itself, meaning the two men were on opposite sides of a physical barrier, making an explanation of how a fatal shot to the back of the head was done in self-defense that much more difficult to resolve.
But Nashville Police investigators still need to have probable cause to make an arrest. If Chris Ferrell had made an effort to flee, if he had tampered with the evidence, or otherwise attempted to conceal exactly what had happened, if he had not been cooperative or forthright with the investigators, then the police would have some merit of culpability against Chris Ferrell—that Chris believed he was guilty and was trying to cover his tracks with a self-defense story. But none of that occurred, and there’s no reason for officers to not believe that Chris Ferrell, who was very emotionally distraught after the killing, felt he was in fear for his life.
There is also the fact that the shooting occurred at 5 AM, after both men had been up for hours, and likely drinking. Both men also have prior arrest records. Chris Ferrell has been arrested twice for driving on a suspended license, though both charges were later dismissed. He was also arrested in July for domestic violence involving a bartender he was dating, and a vandalism charge that is pending. Wayne Mills was charged with driving under the influence and for reckless endangerment when he grazed a police officer on the highway in 2010. Then there was the unfortunate airing of the Spike TV episode of Bar Rescue that ironically featured the very Pit & Barrel Bar where the killing occurred, airing on the same week of Wayne’s death and showcasing a belligerent and high-tempered Chris Ferrell. Then FOX 17 in Nashville surfaced a picture showing both Wayne Mills and Chris Ferrell in the same frame, with Ferrell proudly flashing his handgun.
But since most, if not all of the on-the-ground investigation has been concluded, and it could take weeks or months for the full autopsy to conclude, it is hard to see where the breakthrough in the Wayne Mills case could come from. It’s beginning to feel like this may be a case that could take weeks, months, or longer to resolve. Investigators are trying to piece together an evidence puzzle while relying on a potential suspect as their only witness. The fact that the other witnesses, the ones that heard the shots and made the 9-11 call, were also where the misidentification of Wayne Mills originated is also not an idle fact. The mistaken identity of Wayne Mills may be where this homicide investigation hinges, but police must find more evidence or information to make an arrest, or to fully excuse Chris Ferrell from investigation.
Other questions from the investigation still remain. Did Chris Ferrell show any physical evidence, any physical harm done to him—bruises, cuts, etc.—to corroborate that Wayne Mills was being physically threatening? If Wayne Mills was acting aggressively, why did he need to be shot in the back of the head? Wouldn’t another, less fatal part of the body be more appropriate? Was Chris Ferrell drunk at the time of the shooting? Was he on drugs? Was Wayne Mills drunk or on drugs? Why did Chris Farrell not call 9-11 when the situation seemed to be escalating out of control? Why was it the witnesses outside that called 9-11, and not Ferrell after he shot Wayne? Why was Chris Ferrell not able to help resolve the identity discrepancy earlier in the investigation? And why did Ferrell re-open the Pit & Barrel so quickly?
Website The Class Action Lawsuit has looked into the particulars of the Wayne Mills case as they are known at the moment, and has offered some clarifications on how a self-defense claim could be handled in a bar scenario. “Self-defense gives a person the justified right to counteract violence or force, to prevent an injury or harm and to protect oneself,” says the website. “Though a bar room brawl seems like a natural context for self-defense, there are a number of circumstances that must exist before self-defense can function as a valid justification for shooting someone in a place of business.”
The website gives requisites for Chris Ferrell to claim self-defense as:
- Ferrell was not the initial aggressor;
- Ferrell had a reasonable and honest belief that he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury;
- Mills never retreated from the fight;
- Ferrell did not consent to Mills’ force; and
- Ferrell used a proportional amount of force.
The Class Action Lawsuit website also says, “It’s unclear whether the amount of force used by Ferrell was proportional to the type of force it was meant to prevent. He went for the jugular, so to speak, when he shot Mills in the head. Ferrell won’t be able to claim self-defense if the gunshot to Mills’ head was excessive. Killing someone with a gun in response to someone who was verbally insulting you, for example, would never suffice as self-defense. But if Mills was also wielding a gun, the ‘fighting fire with fire’ rationale may apply.”
If the case remains at a stalemate, that doesn’t mean that investigators, or the friends and family of Wayne Mills, don’t have options. A Grand Jury could be called to consider the evidence and potentially hand down an indictment. The Grand Jury system is sometimes employed in cases where the evidence and circumstances are complex, and District Attorney’s have difficulty assigning charges. Tennessee is a Grand Jury state, and the Grand Jury / indictment system was just used on another murder investigation in Nashville where a mother was indicted in the death of her 3-year-old son. However, as another indication that the Wayne Mills case may take a while to resolve, the indictment was brought 7 months after the incident.
The Wayne Mills family could address Wayne’s death as a civil matter and pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Sometimes wrongful death is easier to prove than criminal charges. There was no obvious premeditation in the Wayne Mills killing, at least from what we know, but maybe manslaughter charges are more appropriate in this case, seeing how lethal force was used on what we believe to be an unarmed man, when Chris Ferrell may have had other options to subdue Wayne Mills if Wayne was in fact acting aggressively.
The case could also be elevated to the state level.
Aside from the obligation of investigators to presume innocence and prove guilt, the climate surrounding claims of self-defense has never been more favorable, with stand your ground laws, concealed weapons permits (which Chris Ferrell had), and other laws governing how authorities must handle self-defense claims giving deference to the individuals claiming self-defense.
Most notably the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida resulted in an acquittal of all charges against neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman, despite some evidence that deadly force was not necessary. On November 29th, a Georgia man fatally shot a 72-year-old Alzheimer’s patient 4 times after he knocked on his back door at 4 AM. He has yet to be charged with any crime.
Musician Carter Albrect who used to play in The New Bohemians and was a member of the Dallas-based band Sorta was shot and killed in 2007 after becoming disoriented after drinking and taking an anti-smoking drug, and mistakenly banging on the door of his girlfriend’s neighbor, resulting in a warning shot being fired through the door that struck Albrect. No charges were ever filed against the homeowner.
But none of these cases fall under Tennessee law or are being handled by Nashville District Attorneys, and they all fall under individuals protecting their homes and private property. In a place of business, and specifically a bar is where this case falls into a gray area that may make it hard for prosecutors to bring charges.
10 days after the death of Wayne Mills, and there’s still much anger, confusion, questions, and worry amongst friends, family, and fans of the fallen artist. They want answers and closure. But the story of the death of Wayne Mills, and the path towards its resolution, may have just begun.