Tourist opens fire on Gatlinburg bear

National / World

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WBIR/NBC News) – A Tennessee man is facing charges of illegal discharge of a firearm and reckless endangerment after firing several shots at a bear outside of a Gatlinburg motel.

Gatlinburg police said tourist Gregory Sapp claimed the bear was outside his room on the second floor breezeway of the Motel 6 and charged at him late Thursday night.

He fired six shots from his .45 caliber handgun.

Officers with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) were unable to find the bear Friday. They do not know how many shots hit the animal. It is unknown if the bear is dead or alive.

Neighbors said they are very familiar with the animal and expressed skepticism that it was aggressive.

“I heard several shots ring out,” said neighbor Anthony Gunter. “It turns out this fellow was shooting at a black bear that he claimed tried to attack him and his wife. He exclaimed it was a 300 or 400 pound bear, which is the exact size of that bear that has been in our neighborhood for a while. It is a big bear. But like I said, I’ve never had a problem with that bear. It goes about its business.”

Police said they are still investigating the case.

The Motel 6 has several cameras visible on the exterior of the building and at the breezeways.

TWRA said if the bear was truly aggressive and threatening, the man may be justified for shooting it in self-defense. But you are not allowed to shoot a bear because it is close to you. Firing a weapon should only be used as a last resort when there is no other escape option.

“The bear ran off and was not located,” said TWRA spokesperson Matt Cameron. “If his statement is true about the bear acting aggressively, TWRA would not likely place any additional charges.”

Cameron said National Park Service helped TWRA look for the bear 2 to 3 hours Friday but they lost the trail of blood.

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