Members of the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force and deputized area law enforcement officers set up in a defensive position while carrying out the operational phase of Operation North Star in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 9, 2022. US Marshals Service photo.
A paroled criminal wanted for carjacking and murder in Tennessee is in a Nashville hospital following a shootout with federal agents inside an apartment stairwell.
The US Marshals’ Fugitive Task Force caught up to 31-year-old Michael Dwight Clay on Friday, Aug. 12, in University Court, an apartment complex near downtown Nashville. They wanted to serve him an arrest warrant for criminal homicide, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery-carjacking, and parole violations.
But they were instead greeted with the distinctive "click" from an AR-15-style rifle. That could've been caused by several problems, including a failure to rack the bolt before pulling the trigger, a dud round, or ammo that wasn't properly seated in the magazine chamber. Then they heard a racking sound, which was likely Clay allegedly trying to clear a round that didn't fire. It was followed by a blast of bullets, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court by FBI Special Agent Stephen Hunter.
Deputy US Marshals said Clay was targeting them from an above-floor room, so they shot back, later estimating that they swapped rounds with him two or three times.
Then the fugitive staggered down the stairs, the rifle clutched in his hand, and collapsed, they told the FBI.
Michael Dwight Clay, 31, faces up to a 20 years for assaulting a federal officer on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
Clay was rushed to a nearby hospital, according to David Boling, a spokesperson for the US attorney in Nashville.
He told Coffee or Die Magazine he couldn’t elaborate on Clay’s condition or even say whether his injuries would prevent him from standing trial for assaulting a federal agent.
“Let me just say this: It’s unlikely that we would move quickly to place charges against someone, maybe that was not expected to survive,” Boling said.
Investigators interviewed a resident — unnamed in the court filings — who said she had put Clay up in her apartment as a favor for a friend but didn’t learn the fugitive’s name until she heard agents ordering him to exit the building.
She said Clay had come downstairs holding a “black gun,” vowing to her that he wouldn’t leave. When agents burst into the residence, he’d already bounded up the stairs.
Deputy US Marshals carry out homicide, sexual assault, robbery, and assault investigations during Operation North Star in Memphis, Tennessee, on June 6, 2022. US Marshals Service photo.
The woman apparently didn’t know about Clay’s violent past.
He was sentenced on Feb. 4, 2010, to 18 years in a Tennessee prison for attempted murder. Clay applied for parole in mid-2015 but was denied, according to Tennessee Board of Parole spokesperson Dustin Krugel.
Clay's luck changed six years later. On Sept. 16, 2021, he was granted parole, as long as he completed a cognitive-behavior-intervention program and agreed to certain conditions, such as having no contact with the person he tried to kill.
He also was ordered to undergo substance-abuse treatment and finish a course designed to make him understand the impact his criminal conduct had on his victim.
Clay was released on parole on Dec. 8, 2021.
US Marshals Service personnel on June 6, 2022, in Memphis, Tennessee. US Marshals Service photo.
It didn’t last long.
Authorities said he'd murdered Tywane Miller, 37, and wounded a 29-year-old woman in the parking lot of an East Nashville 7-Eleven convenience store on April 1, 2022.
Nashville Metropolitan Police detectives believe Clay and two others fled the scene in a white Ford Flex crossover SUV shortly before it crashed on US 40.
They suspect Clay and two passengers exited the SUV, hopped the median, and then carjacked a 2013 Subaru Forester SUV after striking the driver in the head with a firearm.
Although authorities found the car abandoned in Nashville’s Bordeaux neighborhood, Clay had gone to ground, and the Fugitive Task Force launched a dragnet to nab him.
If convicted of assaulting a federal agent, Clay faces up to 20 years in a federal penitentiary.
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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