Police share more details on fatal Johnson City bar shooting

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Police are continuing to investigate a fatal shooting that occurred in a bar early Friday morning in downtown Johnson City.

As of Tuesday, a makeshift memorial for Ryan Nicholson, the victim of the shooting, was placed outside of Tipton Street Pub where he was shot following an argument.

The suspect, Jonathan Murphy, has been charged with second-degree murder after appearing in Washington County General Sessions Court on Monday. Murphy is being held on a $260,000 bond.

Members of the Johnson City Police Department spoke with News Channel 11 Tuesday and revealed new details related to the shooting.

Captain Kevin Peters of the Criminal Investigations Division said evidence in the case is still being analyzed.

“We’ve still got evidence that we’re processing and sending off to the TBI lab to be compared to what we know right now,” Peters said.

Peters said it is not clear if Murphy and Nicholson knew one another prior to the shooting or if they had any sort of relationship.

“We don’t know what the motive of the shooting was,” Peters said. “We just know that they got into some type of disagreement, from there it led to the shooting itself.”

At the time of the shooting, Peters says several people were inside the business.

“There was probably about 30 people in the bar when this occurred,” said Peters. “Depending on where they were inside the bar, they may be standing at a different vantage point than somebody else that we’ve already talked to. They might have seen something different. Anybody that has any information, we would ask them to come forward and talk to us.”

Johnson City Police Chief Karl Turner said the department relies on the help of the community in these situations.

“It’s a partnership between the police and the community,” Turner said. “We need people to report things that go on but we also need businesses to help us as far as the security of their business itself.”

Peters said Nicholson’s family was notified of his death by the JCPD.

A second person, Demarquiste’ Fugh, was charged with tampering with evidence after the shooting. Court documents obtained by News Channel 11 on Monday stated Fugh allegedly took a handgun from Nicholson’s body after he was shot and took it to his home.

“There was one person that had been on the scene and he had actually fled the scene that morning,” Peters said. “We brought him back in on Friday, found out that he had actually took a handgun from the victim’s pocket and fled the scene. Once we brought him in and talked to him, he admitted to this. He turned over the handgun to us and he was charged with tampering with evidence.”

Fugh’s public defender asked the court on Monday to lower the charges against him. His bond was set at $5,000.

Both Fugh and Murphy were scheduled to appear for hearings on the morning of Nov. 1, 2021.

Chief Turner said that this latest shooting does not appear to have any correlation to any of the other recent shootings in the downtown area. However, he said the JCPD will be taking new measures to keep the downtown area safe.

“We have more officers that are on patrol in downtown since August,” Turner said. “We’ve assigned a second officer to patrol specifically in the downtown area. Before that, we had one officer that was on regular duty in downtown. We’ve also paid officers overtime to patrol in the downtown both during the day and at night.”

According to Turner, safety downtown is a priority for the department, which is looking at the possibility of adding additional lighting in the area.

Turner also touched on Murphy’s prior arrest for a similar alleged shooting in a different downtown bar. Police reported in May 2021 that Murphy was arrested after firing a gun inside Numan’s Sports Bar & Cafe, which resulted in one person being injured.

“We arrested that gentleman for the prior offense, and that case has been adjudicated I believe,” Turner said. “That’s our role, to investigate and places charges against individuals, and then the D.A.’s office will help us as far as the prosecution itself. We certainly take part in those. People do have a right to make bond, and that’s a constitutionally guaranteed right that they have.”

Turner said he plans to meet with downtown business owners next week.

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