CHRISTIANA, Tenn. — Pruitt Road residents in this rural Rutherford County town were on guard when fugitives Ricky Dubose and Donnie Rowe came their way on the third day of the manhunt for the accused killers.
Bordering hundreds of acres of lush forest, the two-lane road winds through the countryside. Wild turkeys wander the road, and dogs run free on the rolling hills.
Aware of a freeway chase and gunfire on nearby Interstate 24, Patrick Hale said he loaded every gun in his house after neighbors called to say that two fugitives were possibly headed his way.
One minute later, he saw the convicts cross a barbed-wire fence 300 yards away from his back door and come onto his property.
"I prayed like I have never prayed before," said Hale, 35, during a news conference on Friday with his wife and young daughter by his side.
After calling 911, Hale said he was confronted with the choice of whether to lock his family and himself in a panic room or to flee.
"We got in the car and backed up quick only to find the gentlemen had been running and got much closer to my house," Hale said. "They began to take off their shirts and wave them at us as if to slow us down."
Though his weapon was on him, Hale said he did not have to draw his gun.
"I began to slowly back up as they came closer," he said. "At that point, I realized I had two ex-cons wanted for murder who just shot at law enforcement and nothing to lose. And for some reason, they started to surrender and lay down on their stomachs on my concrete driveway.
"If that doesn't make you believe in Jesus Christ, I don't know what will."
Hale said deputies arrived three minutes later, but before they came, the fugitives rose to their feet to walk a short way for a drink of water. During that time, Hale realized he had a shotgun in a truck with a full tank of gas nearby.
"I was ready to do whatever I could. It was just me and my daughter that day," he said.
During the chaos of the manhunt, a 911 dispatcher described the scene at Hale's house: “They are walking over to our complainant now with their hands up in their air. They’ve taken their shirts off."
Hale said the men, after getting a drink from a water faucet, laid back down on his driveway.
Holly Morelock, who works in the small town, said neighbors there typically keep their weapons handy.
“I feel like it was a good thing. When you mess around out here in the county, most of us here have carry permits and carry (weapons),” Morelock said. “And it’s our job to protect our families and our homes.
“And I’m very proud of the family ... because they didn’t just turn around and mind their own business. They did what they had to do to protect everybody else around.”
On Friday afternoon, a sign was put up in front of the property to address the barage of media that had assembled.
"We were happy to help, but please no media at this time. Thank you."
Reach Nate Rau at 615-259-8094 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tnnaterau.
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