Manhunt for accused killer

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Vincent Morrison, shown here in a photograph circulated by the Knoxville Police Department.

A massive manhunt was underway for a 31-year-old man accused of killing a woman over the weekend in East Knoxville as well as trying to shoot another woman several months ago, authorities said Tuesday.

Police agencies from Knoxville to Atlanta were searching for Vincent Morrison, 31, of Maryville. 

He has been charged with second-degree murder for the death of 43-year-old Aisha Cates, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in the Walter P. Taylor Homes public housing project in East Knoxville early Sunday morning.

“It would be fair to say that numerous law enforcement agencies are devoting a significant amount of resources to locate Vincent Morrison, who is now accused in two separate violent events,” said KPD spokesperson Scott Erland.

Cates was found lying beside a vehicle near the intersection of McConnell Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue about 3:15 a.m. Sunday. Witnesses told police that “an occupant of a vehicle of unknown make and model fired a shot and fled the area at a high rate of speed,” police said.

Erland declined to say how investigators were able to tie Morrison to Cates’s death. He also didn’t say if they knew each other.

Morrison was already wanted on outstanding warrants filed in connection with a March 5 incident in which he allegedly shot at his then-fiancé in North Knoxville. 

“Officers responded to Breda Drive and Bruhin Road and met with the female victim, who stated that she was picking up her fiancé, Vincent Morrison, near Summercrest Way,” Erland explained.

“The victim stated that Morrison was angry and the two got into a verbal altercation,” he continued. “Morrison threatened to shoot her, and he shot at her while she was inside of her vehicle. Morrison also allegedly hit her vehicle with another vehicle before the victim was able to flee the scene. The victim was thankfully not injured during the incident.”

After the March 5 incident, warrants were issued charging Morrison with aggravated assault and vandalism, said Erland.

Investigators believe that Morrison may be in the East Knoxville neighborhoods of Five Points or Walter P. Taylor Homes. He may also be staying in a motel in East Knoxville or on Merchants Drive in North Knoxville.

He is known to travel between Knoxville, Chattanooga and Atlanta, Ga., according to KPD officials.

Cates’s death was the 32nd homicide in Knoxville this year.

Like most cities in the United States, Knoxville has been struggling with rising violent crime rates. There are several ways to look at the numbers, but they all paint the same grim picture: 2021 is on track to be the bloodiest year since Knoxville began keeping crime statistics.  

The unprecedented rise in the homicide rate began when the number of killings shot up from 22 in 2019 to 37 in 2020, a 72 percent increase. Prior to 2020, the bloodiest year on record had been when 35 people were killed in 1998.

Since Jan. 1, there have been at least 32 slayings in the city, plus at least five more homicides in the unincorporated areas of Knox County under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office. 

One way that officials have tried to combat the surge in violence is through the introduction of East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers, a nonprofit agency that collects tips from citizens and pays rewards for information about crime. 

“The reward that is being offered for information leading to the apprehension of Morrison through Crime Stoppers is as much as $1,000, which is the maximum amount available unless the Executive Board approves raising that reward or residents donate additional funds to increase that amount,” Erland said.

Anyone with information regarding Morrison’s whereabouts is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, online at www.easttnvalleycrimestoppers.org or via the free mobile P3 Tips app. Tipsters will remain anonymous and be eligible to receive a cash reward.   

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com 

Published on August 25, 2021.