BOLIVAR, TN — “I watched him just shoot her. He raised the gun and he shot her six times. I said he shot her. He actually shot her. He is killing my daughter.”
Rev. Barbara Fitzhugh is doing something she hasn’t been able to do for almost a year, talk about the day she lost her 26-year-old daughter, Camille Thompson.
“It was like an out-of-body experience,” says Fitzhugh.
It was September 15, 2016, and Camille had left her husband of two years, Johntate Thompson, after a violent relationship and believing he had been trolling sexual sites on the internet.
“She had confronted him about it. She had sent him a text letting him know she knew about it,” says Fitzhugh.
Johntate showed up at Fitzhugh’s home on Pleasant Creek Lane in Bolivar.
“He started pleading, ‘Mama I want my family back. Tell Camille I want my family back, Mama. Talk to her, Mama. Tell her I want my family,'” says Fitzhugh.
When Camille refused to see him, Johntate eventually left, but he didn’t go far.
He was waiting at the end of the street when Camille came out to take her 7- and 8-year-olds to school. They got in the car with their mother.
“He pulled out and blocked her and she sat there. He looked at her. She backed up and veered to the right. He backed up and blocked her from going to the right,” says Fitzhugh. “He walked over to the car. He stood there a few minutes. Then he lifted the gun and he shot her six times. She never got out the car. He shot her through the glass.”
Camille’s 4- and 5-year-old kids were riding with Fitzhugh in a car behind.
“He didn’t want to hurt the children, but he did want to kill me. He blamed me ’cause I couldn’t get Camille to take him back,” says Fitzhugh. “After he had shot her six times, he turned the gun and looked at me. He did like this and started walking towards the car.”
Fitzhugh says she was able to get away by trying to run over Johntate.
She ended up crashing into a nearby house.
“He thought I was stuck and couldn’t get loose. He started walking up toward the car with the gun pointed at me again. I turned my car and headed down the hill toward the store. He was trying to get a clear shot. But he couldn’t get a clear shot because of the babies in the back seat. They was up moving and they was looking. So he couldn’t get a clear shot. He looked real evil and turned and he walked back toward her car and followed it down the hill, and I heard him shoot four more times,” says Fitzhugh.
She saw the tragedy with her own eyes. So did her grandchildren in the car with their mother.
“The kids were screaming and hollering for him not to kill her. They told him, ‘You are killing my mama.’ They said, he said, ‘I know’ and shot her two more times,” says Fitzhugh.
She drove to a nearby store to get help. When she came back to her daughter’s car, she saw the horror.
“She was laying over in the car with her face looking up, and her eyes were rolled back in her head. She wasn’t breathing, and her kids were just screaming and crying, saying, ‘Get up mama. Get up mama. Don’t be dead. Get up mama,'” says Fitzhugh. “I was screaming for help. I was just screaming for help.”
Johntate Thompson fled. He would later kill himself after being surrounded by officers.
Camille Thompson died — while taking her kids too school.
Her kids saw it all.
“Every time they pass this spot they remember,” says Fitzhugh as she stood near a makeshift memorial at the spot where her daughter was shot.
She says it affects the kids; they have nightmares.
But it also did something else.
“They said they want to make their mom proud. So they are doing better in school,” she says.
As for this mother who herself saw the tragedy, she can finally talk about it.
Now Barbara Fitzhugh hopes her daughter’s story can send a message to others in similar violent relationships.
“You can’t change people. People are who they are. Don’t think I can change him or he will get better. If you see the signs, don’t walk. Run to the nearest exit,” says Fitzhugh.
Barbara Fitzhugh is now raising her daughter’s two oldest children, 7 and 8. The 4- and 5-year-olds are living with their biological father.