A lot of questions are still unanswered in the shooting death of country music singer Wayne Mills, but three things are very certain: he was unarmed, shot in the head, and the shooter claimed “self defense.” Over a cigarette.
The Pit and Barrel Bar (formerly BoondoxX) had some new life breathed into it since Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue“ had shown up in January of this year. Bar Rescue, which is to struggling bars what “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” is to restaurants, is a “makeover” show that is at the very least a powerful publicity tool for local establishments. The episode was scheduled to air at 9 P.M. last night, less than 24 hours after the shooting took place.
After attending a George Jones tribute concert with a group of friends, and doing a bit of bar hopping earlier in the evening, Mills found himself down at the Pit and Barrell around closing time. He was friends with the bar owner Chris Ferrell, who he knew wouldn’t have a problem with a bit of after-hours hanging out. Especially with a celebrity like Mills, who had toured with the Wayne Mills Band, Jamey Johnson, Blake Shelton and Taylor Hicks.
At about 4:00 in the morning, the likely intoxicated Mills lit up a cigarette in a non-smoking section of the bar. The small group of people Ferrell allowed in after hours didn’t seem to mind — but Ferrell (also likely intoxicated), did. He and Mills got into a heated argument, and like a scene from a Wild West movie, the rest of the patrons cleared out.
What happened next isn’t entirely clear, because all the witnesses were outside. But shortly after the doors closed, Ferrell (in the midst of the ongoing argument) pulled out a gun and shot Mills in the head. Police have not released details on the shooting itself as yet, but Mills’ best friend and manager JR Smith mentioned Mills being “shot in the back of the head.”
Ferrell had a valid permit for the gun. When police called by the group outside questioned Ferrell, he claimed “self-defense” and no arrests were made, and no charges have been pressed. Police say they are “still investigating” the shooting. Both Ferrell and Mills have prior arrests; Ferrell two arrests for driving on a suspended, and Mills for DUI and reckless endangerment (likely excessive speeding). Tennessee is one of many states with Stand Your Ground laws, which will certainly come into play here.
Mills leaves behind a much-adored wife and two children. JR Smith said this:
“I don’t see any way to claim self-defense. I’ve known Wayne for 20-plus years and I’ve never ever seen him be violent to another person or be aggressive to another person or give anyone a reason to pull a gun on him and shoot him in the back of the head.”
You can visit the Wayne Mills memorial Facebook page here.
The Pit and Barrel has this sign displayed prominently next to the front door. It reads “GUNS ARE WELCOME ON PREMISES.”
Spike TV cancelled the original 9:00 p.m. Central airing of the Pit and Barrel episode (“Music City Mess“) after the shooting, but failed to cancel the encore showing at midnight. Spike says that it was human error on the part of the programmer, who had neglected to cancel the encore showing in addition to the original one. That single episode was telling for many, though.
Those who watched the single airing reported that Chris Ferrell certainly came across have “having a temper” — enough so that his regular losses of cool with the staff became a central point of the episode. This is a screenshot from the post-makeover update at the end of the show: