JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Police have identified a 19-year-old Kingsport man, Ja’Shon Yates, as the victim in a fatal shooting that occurred early Sunday at Monarch Apartments near East Tennessee State University.

Lead investigator Lt. Don Shepard described a chaotic scene when police arrived shortly after 2:30 a.m. at the four-building complex catering mostly to students and said he expects a lengthy investigation.

Shepard said more than 100 people were at Monarch attending numerous New Year’s Eve parties.

“More than 20 police officers responded to the area,” he said. “Once they responded, there was heavy vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic. All they had was a shots fired call.”

Police eventually found Yates on the second floor of Building Four.

Johnson City Police Department Lt. Don Shepard, who is leading the investigation into the Jan. 1 shooting death of 19-year-old Ja’Shon Yates at Monarch Apartments near East Tennessee State University, speaks to reporters Jan. 3, 2023. (WJHL photo)

“When these shots rang out, all the people at this apartment, they fled. They fled through the hallway, stairwells, elevators. We had some jump off the second-floor balcony, some jump out of windows. There was anywhere from 15 to 60 people in the apartment, at any given time. During the interviews, we’re trying to identify all the people at this party to find out what information they have.”

Shepard said that investigators, who spent more than 17 man-hours collecting evidence from the apartment and hallway, learned three altercations were taking place just at the apartment (4205) where Yates was shot. Shepard said Yates was transported to Johnson City Medical Center and died of his injuries.

Shepard said investigators had already conducted more than 20 interviews as of early Tuesday afternoon.

“Once the interviews are completed and identities of some people are done, we hope to develop a suspect,” Shepard said. “We’ve had some people of interest come up. We have yet to speak with those people so we’ll hold that tight to our vest at this point.”

“We still have many, many interviews to go, we have to take a lot of time to do that.”

Shepard said police know multiple shots were fired, but wouldn’t say whether more than one gun or shooter was involved.

While Monarch is almost exclusively occupied by ETSU students, Shepard said so far based on their interviews the police haven’t found anyone at the party who was a student. He added that Monarch is open to non-students.

“And with the availability of people from the outside being able to come inside, people can come from all over the area to that place,” he said.

“At this point in the investigation we’ve not identified anyone, as a witness, as a suspect or a person of interest that is associated with ETSU, but we have a long ways to go.”

Shepard pleaded with people who were present but haven’t contacted police — perhaps because they were drinking underage — to come forward for interviews.

“The police department is not concerned with that at this moment,” Shepard said of potential minor infractions. “We’re trying to speak for a person that’s unable to speak for himself today, Ja’Shon Yates.”

“I would hope his friends and family would see it as that and come forward as that and help us in identifying and holding someone accountable so that the judicial system can hold them accountable.”

Police had put more than 300 hours into the case as of mid-Tuesday and Shepard said it was the primary one being worked on.

“Ja’Shon Yates deserves that,” he said. “As a police department, we want to give that to him and his family, hold somebody accountable … “That’s our main focus. That’s what drives us and that’s what we’re here for.”

Anyone with information related to the shooting is asked to contact police at (423) 434-6166. People can also report anonymously either by texting the code “423 JCPD” along with the tip to phone number 847411, or by calling the Crime Stoppers number at (423) 434-6158.