Police arrested 33-year-old William David Phillips on Monday, June 17 after two pedestrian related crashes, police said in a media release.
William David Phillips is accused of intentionally driving his car into pedestrians in Jefferson City, Tennessee, killing a pregnant woman, Sierra Cahoon, and her 2-year-old son, Nolan, and injuring 2 others. Phillips, 33, didn’t know the victims, cops say https://t.co/Qw6TsU3VNg
— Tom Cleary (@tomwcleary) June 19, 2019
While going west on East Main Street in Jefferson City, Phillips intentionally swerved and hit a 61-year-old pedestrian, Tillman Gunter, who was then hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the media release.
Phillips then continued driving for less than a mile before swerving into two more pedestrians and crashing into a building.
The second crash hit and killed a pregnant 30-year-old mother, Sierra Wilson Cahoon, and her 2-year-old son, Nolan Cahoon, who both died at the scene. One person inside the building suffered minor injuries.
Investigators said Phillips did not know the victims.
“The preliminary investigation has revealed that this was an intentional act of violence toward randomly chosen pedestrians,” police said in the media release.
Phillips has been charged with three counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted first degree murder.
A witness told WBIR he saw Phillips accelerate before hitting Cahoon and her son.
“I ran up here and I just saw the guy, he was trying to get out of the car and the lady and the baby in the stroller were next to the building,” witness Bill Ray Jones told WBIR.
“He knew he had hit her and I’m sure he did because he was talking all crazy,” he said, adding that Phillips was yelling something about the “government told him to do it.”
Jefferson City police determined the driver, William David Phillips, did not know any of the three victims. https://t.co/W18ysvqxOF
— knoxnews (@knoxnews) June 19, 2019
According to an arrest warrant obtained by WBIR, “a voice told [Phillips] that he needed to go kill the meth addicts so he began driving very fast.” Phillips then reportedly told investigators that “the voice told him that the baby stroller had meth in it so he intentionally drove into” Cahoon and her son.
Cahoon was the wife of an athletic trainer at Carson-Newman University, according to the news outlet.
Cahoon’s sister shared a post on Facebook thanking people for their kind thoughts and prayers following the tragedy.
“We’re at a loss of words…Our hearts are completely shattered and our life will forever be changed. Thank you for all the love, support and, prayers shown to our family during this tragedy. Sierra, Nolan and, baby Cahoon will be extremely missed but forever in our hearts.—The Wilson Family.”
Nolan Cahoon attended a preschool at the First Methodist Church, close to where the crash happened, according to WBIR. His teachers described him as a happy boy who loved giving out hugs and high-fives.
“He was a joy,” Jessica Lawson, the director of the preschool, told the news outlet. “He would walk through the door smiling every morning.”
In addition to the lives lost, Phillips also caused major damage to the building he crashed into.
The building, Sustainable Aquatics, is owned by a fish hatchery, according to The Knoxville News Sentinel. The owner, John Carberry, arrived moments after the crash to find the mother and toddler dead on the sidewalk, according to the news outlet.
“When I got there, there was a hole in the building, and one of my employees ran out,” Carberry said. “She had minor injuries. She ran up to the main building, and the perpetrator ran out of the hole and ran up and some local citizens grabbed him.”
Carberry said the crash “destroyed four fish systems,” causing more thousands of gallons of water to spill.
Additionally, the building lost power, and because it was sealed off as a crime scene, Carberry couldn’t access it until the next day.
“Thousands of fish died,” he said.