3 employees shot at SmileDirectClub in Tennessee; suspected gunman killed by police

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A gunman opened fire Tuesday morning at a SmileDirectClub manufacturing facility in Nashville’s Antioch neighborhood, injuring three of his co-workers before he was shot and killed by police, according to the Metro Nashville Police Department.

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Authorities said the shooting happened around 6 a.m.

The victims were identified as security guard Johnny Hardin, 46; security guard Carlton Watson, 66; and manager Thomas Abbott, 54. They were taken to hospitals following the shooting. Hardin was last listed in critical condition, while Watson was in stable condition and Abbott has been treated and released, police said.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, police spokesman Don Aaron said the shooter was believed to be a day-shift employee. He was later identified as a 22-year-old who worked at the facility from late 2019 to early 2020, and then started working there again in June.

Officers saw him after the shooting carrying a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine near the intersection of Antioch Pike and Franklin Limestone Road and demanded that he drop his weapon, Aaron said.

“He did not, but instead was directing the gun toward the officers,” Aaron said, prompting at least one police officer to open fire.

The gunman was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

“We know a name,” Aaron said. “He was a day-shift employee. The overnight-shift was getting off, and he seemingly was reporting for work, but with him as he reported for work was this Glock semiautomatic pistol with an extended magazine, and for some reason he opened fire.”

Company officials credited security personnel at the facility for quickly containing the shooting.

“The safety of our team members is a top priority for our Company and we maintain strict security protocols and a no weapons policy at all of our facilities,” SmileDirectClub officials said in a statement posted on Twitter. “We are working with the local police as they investigate this matter.”

The circumstances leading up to the shooting were not immediately clear. Police continue to investigate.

“The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will handle this matter because it involves a police shooting,” Aaron said. “Obviously, a very trying morning for the employees here -- they’re trying to make sense of what happened -- as well as our police officers. You know, you see active shooting calls around the country, you always hope and pray that those will not happen here. Well, one happened here this morning.”

SmileDirectClub is a Nashville-based oral care company known for creating clear aligners for straightening teeth. Antioch is about 12 miles southeast of downtown Nashville.

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