It was a radio call Sevierville police train for, but hope they never hear.
Two days before Christmas last year, it happened: reports of an active shooter inside a packed Walmart.
Families hid inside the shelves, 911 dispatchers prayed on the phone with callers, and officers ran toward the threat—guns drawn.
Authorities later discovered it was all a false alarm: no one was hurt and no one had fired a shot. Two men faced charges for drawing guns during a fight near the store's restrooms.
But officers and shoppers at the Sevierville Walmart didn't know that just before 3:30 p.m. on December 23, 2020.
"Honestly, I thought that there was somebody loose inside the store and they'd either gone and barricaded themselves somewhere or were just trying to hide from us," Sevierville Police Lieutenant Matt Nicol said.
For the first time, body camera footage, surveillance video and 911 call records obtained by 10News show the panicked community reaction and armed police response in stark detail: customers calling 911 to ask whether they should grab their children and run, and officers clearing the store aisle-by-aisle.
"There's a shooter at Walmart":
The 911 calls started at 3:29 p.m.
"We're at the supermarket Walmart and there's a gun," one caller said. "Please, please, please, please hurry."
In another call, the store's manager begged for assistance. "We have a code brown," she said. "I'm not sure where the shooter is."
Another caller warned other shoppers to turn around: "Get out, there's a shooter inside."
Within seconds, dispatchers relayed the call to the Sevierville Police Department, where shift Lieutenant Matt Nicol was finishing paperwork.
"When I heard the call came out, it kind of startled me at first," he said.
Video showed he wasn't startled for long. Nicol jumped into his squad car, flicked on the lights and sped down the Parkway toward the store. Along the way, the 15-year department veteran radioed out requests for assistance from nearly a dozen neighboring departments and issued orders to officers already on scene.
"If [the suspect] ran toward the back, go to the back."
"Block off the main road, no one in or out."
"Go to the front and start evacuating."
At the store, officer Jacob Benedict was the first to arrive, soon followed by officer Jordan Chambers. "People were scattered everywhere. It was chaotic. People were trying to jump over the fence," Benedict said.
"We still had no idea where the shooter was," Chambers said.
And it was his job to find him.
Clearing the maze of storerooms:
An eerie scene awaited officers as they entered the store. Shopping carts sat abandoned and 'Here Comes Santa Claus' played on the store speakers.
They faced a daunting task: checking every aisle of the busy big box store and the cluttered warehouse space for any victims and suspects that were still inside.
"It's stressful because you have to make sure you're clearing every single small space," Nicol said. "We're trying to do it as tactically and carefully as possible, but also as fast as possible. Time is of the essence."
Body camera video showed the officers worked in teams of two and switched between long guns and pistols as they cleared long hallways, small anterooms and refrigerated coolers.
They repeatedly yelled "blue, blue, blue" coming around corners to avoid startling fellow officers and risking friendly fire.
In the baby section of the store, Officer Benedict's team found a family who had hidden inside the shelves.
"It's ok. These are police officers," their mother could be heard saying as the kids emerged shaken from behind boxes.
"It was crazy in a sense," Benedict remembered. "We made sure they were safe, let them know it was okay and we're going to escort them out."
In another section of the store, Nicol found a group of five employees locked inside the vision center. "Police officer," he yelled as he opened the locked door to escort them out of the store to safety.
"Can you pray for us really hard?":
As officers rushed toward the store, Sevier County 911 dispatcher Jenny Keener watched every phone line on the monitor in front of her light up.
"We know immediately when we see those lines light up all at the same time, something bad is happening," she said.
The call she remembered most from that day came from a young mother who was in the car with her children in the Walmart parking lot.
"Would it be safer to get babies out and run to Chick-Fil-A? Do you think it's okay?" Brittany asked, who 10News is only identifying by her first name for her privacy.
The crush of people trying to escape the parking lot, combined with the police cruisers responding to the scene, had blocked her in the exit lane of the Walmart.
"I've got my newborn and my one-year-old in the car and I'm really scared," she said.
"It stood out to me because she had the children with her and she was so worried about them," Keener recalled.
In a windowless room miles from the store, Keener said she had to rely on instinct to tell the woman to stay in the car.
"We do make a connection with people when they call," she said. "It's basically like I'm there on the scene with them."
At one point on the call, Brittany began to pray.
"Can you pray for us really hard? I don't know if you're a woman of God?" she asked Keener.
"I've been praying from the first call we got, ma'am. Trust me," the dispatcher replied.
"Sometimes [my faith] is all I've got," Keener told 10News. "That's the only thing I've got to fall back on."
Keener said she wanted to connect with Brittany—it's not often dispatchers meet the people they've helped.
"I would just probably hug her neck and tell her, you know, 'I'm glad you made it out okay,'" Keener said. "'I'm glad I got to talk with you.'"
Tracking the suspects:
Video from inside the Walmart showed the fight that started it all happened near the bathrooms at the front of the store. After a verbal and then physical altercation, two men pulled out guns.
The surveillance video showed other shoppers taking cover as they chased each other around the front of the store and eventually out into the parking lot.
Outside, Benedict was among the officers who first spotted the suspects, based on descriptions relayed from Nicol who was watching video in the store's loss prevention office. Within three minutes, officers had handcuffed them.
Pedro Salisipan Ngayan, 65, from Pigeon Forge, was charged with two counts of aggravated assault. Dashawn Leon Bonner, 22, from Pensacola, Florida, was charged with one count of misdemeanor assault.
"It was a simple altercation that turned into something way bigger than it should have," Benedict said.
In June, Ngayan pleaded guilty to a count of reckless endangerment, forfeited his weapons and was instructed not to return to Walmart, the Sevier County Clerk's Office said.
Bonner pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to probation and instructed to give up his guns as well, the clerk's office said.
Police said neither fired a shot.
"It could've been so much worse":
More than seven months after the shooting scare, Nicol still remembered clearing the cluttered storerooms of the Walmart.
"It could have been horrible. I was very thankful that it worked out the way it did," he said.
Chambers shrugged off the drama of the day: "You're just going into the unknown, but that's something we do every day."
But this was no ordinary call. The officers said they train to respond to active shooter situations, but Nicol said he'd never responded to a call with such "mass hysteria" before.
"It's what we do. It's why we get into this line of work," he said. "It takes a special person, in my opinion, to be a police officer."