WHITE PINE, Tenn. (WJHL) – A daughter, father and stepfather have all died as a result of a custody exchange gone wrong, according to police in White Pine.
16-year-old Teagan Welch and her stepfather Ken Cook were Greene County residents: Teagan a Greeneville High School student and Ken a local pastor at Mosheim Church of God. Teagan’s biological father, Christopher Welch, was from Harriman, Tennessee.
White Pine police told News Channel 11 Monday that Christopher Welch brought Teagan to the Pilot gas station on Roy Messer Highway Jan. 3 for the custody swap; meeting Teagan’s stepfather and an unidentified fourth family member there.
What happened in the next few minutes led multiple witnesses to call 911 reporting an active shooter.
Police Chief Chad Cotter told News Channel 11 officers responded to the scene in two minutes. They quickly identified there was no active shooter, and the events of the shooting had already transpired.
“When we arrived on scene, we located three victims. All three had gunshot wounds,” said Chief Cotter.
Christopher Welch was pronounced dead at the scene when police arrived.
Teagan Welch and Ken Cook were both transported to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee in critical condition, where they both died from their injuries.
Chief Cotter said it is common for custody exchanges to be high tension but said he has never seen anything like this.
“There is no reason to put any kid in danger. That’s just totally uncalled for. It’s very unfortunate and it should have never happened,” said Cotter.
The fourth family member at the scene of the shooting was not injured.
“Of course, it’s obvious that something triggered this. You have three adults and one child, or young adult. We are trying to figure out exactly what caused it,” said Cotter.
The chief added there is much they cannot yet release in their ongoing investigation. All three died of gunshot wounds, but police will not say as of Monday who fired which fatal shots and why. They also will not comment on how many discharged guns were recovered from the scene.
“I know there’s a lot of questions that are unanswered right now. This is a pretty complex situation that happened. It’s an unfortunate situation, but we are going to do our very best to get all the facts,” said Chief Cotter.
Monday, News Channel 11 learned more about Pastor Ken Cook from Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison, who knew him well.
“The skies got a lot dimmer when the preacher left Greene County,” said Mayor Morrison.
Cook not only pastored Mosheim Church of God in Mosheim, Tennessee; he was also a trusted employee of the county’s solid waste department.
“If you had ever met him once, you knew him and you liked him. He was that type of individual,” said Morrison. “You could be around him for just one second, and he would put a smile on your face and brighten your day.”
Mayor Morrison said in his close friendship with Cook, he never mentioned custodial issues.
“He never once alluded to the fact or shared any detail that there was any discord in his family at all,” said Morrison.
Monday, students at Greeneville High School honored their friend and classmate, junior Teagan Welch, by wearing blue and green in her memory.
Teagan was a member of the high school band and the bowling team.
Schools officials said they made more counselling available to students dealing with the tragic loss of a friend.
The White Pine Police Department continues its investigation with the help of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Chief Cotter said they are interviewing witnesses from the scene and collecting video at this time. They ask any witnesses or those with any information about the incident to contact them.
Cotter said all investigation findings will be turned over to District Attorney Jimmy Dunn.
An obituary posted online shows Christopher Welch was laid to rest Monday, Jan. 10.
News Channel 11 has not yet learned of arrangements for Teagan and Ken.