How Tennessee’s Justice System Allows Dangerous People to Keep Guns — With Deadly Outcomes

Kimberly Jones-Mbuyi, left, and KiAndrea Jones, Michaela Carter’s mother and sister, hold a photograph of Carter at their home in the Antioch neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee. Credit:William DeShazer for ProPublica

By Paige Pfleger, WPLN/Nashville Public Radio, with research by Mariam Elba, ProPublica

Co-published with WPLN/Nashville Public Radio

Series:Under the Gun: How Gun Violence Is Impacting the Nation

As America emerged from the pandemic, communities continued to experience a rising tide of gun violence. School shootings and the rate of children and teens killed by gunfire both reached all-time highs since at least 1999. ProPublica’s coverage of gun violence reveals how first responders, policymakers and those directly affected are coping with the bloodshed.

This article was produced for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in partnership with WPLN/Nashville Public Radio. 

This story contains a description of a 911 call that took place as a homicide was being committed.

Michaela Carter felt like she was being hunted.

She fled her family’s home on Nov. 15, 2021, and called 911 with her mother, pulling into the parking lot of a discount store in southeast Nashville, Tennessee, to await the police.

“Are they sending people?” Carter can be heard asking her mom on the 911 call. An excerpt of the first call Carter and Jones-Mbuyi made to 911. Jones-Mbuyi told the dispatcher that Carter’s estranged husband, James Leggett, had been seen with a gun. (Credit: Obtained by WPLN)

Her mother, Kimberly Jones-Mbuyi, told the dispatcher that Carter’s estranged husband had just been seen walking around a family member’s apartment complex with a gun.

James Leggett had gotten out of jail 10 days earlier. He’d been locked up since Carter reported to police that he’d repeatedly hit her in the face with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. Since he was released, he’d started calling her and sending increasingly desperate text messages.

The night before, he posted on Facebook: “Somebody with nothing to lose won’t give a fuck when shit gets real.”

Then, that morning: “Today is the day.”