Katie Quackenbush moved to Nashville a few years ago to pursue a career in music. She has several YouTube videos where she is performing songs, playing guitar and rapping.
On Aug. 26, everything changed for the young mother when police say she shot and critically injured Gerald Melton, a homeless man, near Music Row.
She was arrested Monday and charged with attempted murder. Tuesday, homeless advocates spoke out.
"This kind of violence against folks on the street is incredibly disturbing," said Lindsey Krinks, a homeless and affordable housing advocate with Open Table Nashville.
Police say Melton reported he was sleeping on the sidewalk on the 900 block of 19th Avenue South when he said Quackenbush drove up in a Porsche SUV with a friend. The man told police he approached the woman's car complaining about the loud music and exhaust fumes, and asked her to move the vehicle.
Police say Melton and Quackenbush got into a verbal argument.
The police affidavit says the man had walked away back toward the area he was sleeping and Quackenbush got of her SUV out with a gun. The two continued to argue and Quackenbush fired two shots, hitting Melton in the abdomen. Police say the woman and her friend then drove off.
Tuesday, Katie Quackenbush's father, Jesse Quackenbush, an attorney in Amarillo, TX, told News 4 on the phone the Metro Police's report only tells part of the story.
"It's been self-defense since day one and the police have known this," Jesse Quackenbush said.
He said Melton was already arguing with and accosting another group of women in the street and threatening them when his daughter drove up to drop her friend off at her car. People who live nearby said they heard loud yelling.
"She did give a warning shot not knowing that it hit him, and she's being painted as this merciless person that would just leave someone dying in the street when it's just not the case," Jesse Quackenbush said, defending his daughter. "Had she known that he had been struck, she would have called the police immediately.”
Metro police say there was nothing keeping Katie Quackenbush from driving off before getting out the car.
Her father said she got out with a gun to escort her friend to her car. He said both women were afraid of Melton, who was allegedly yelling profanity and threats at them.
After the shooting, Jesse Quackenbush said his daughter and her friend left the scene and went to a nearby restaurant because they didn't think Melton had been shot.
He said his daughter returned to drop off her friend at her car and found the area cordoned off with crime scene tape. Jesse Quackenbush said the friend ultimately took an Uber home.
"Later that morning, or the next day, they learn that people are looking for two blondes in that vicinity, and that's when they pieced together that this gentleman might have been hit by what was intended to be warning shots," Jesse Quackenbush said. "My daughter immediately attempted to contact authorities to let them know who she was to identify herself.”
Katie Quackenbush had been arrested for assault before in her hometown of Amarillo, TX, in 2013. Her father told News 4 the charges were dismissed and her criminal record is cleared. Online court records show she has a pending misdemeanor assault charge out of Potter County, TX, from 2016.
Melton has been arrested before for trespassing. Some people in the area where the incident occurred have said he has been aggressive with people who live in the area.
"People living on the streets are just like you and me, but there are also incredible histories of trauma and abuse in their backgrounds," Krinks said.
She said other homeless persons living on the streets of Nashville are "shaken up" to learn the identity of the injured man. He was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in critical condition that night. Tuesday, he remained in the hospital in stable condition.
Jesse Quackenbush noted he thinks his daughter is being treated unfairly.
"I know there has been a problem in Nashville, so I've read, with the homeless attacking, raping and killing people. There has also been a problem with local citizens killing homeless people," Jesse Quackenbush said. "So, my daughter is ending up as a poster child for all these pre-existing problems with the homeless."
Katie Quackenbush bonded out of Davidson County jail on a $25,000 bail. Her court appearance is set for Oct. 6.
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