NASHVILLE – A tip from a concerned citizen provided a pivotal break Friday in the Dec. 3 slaying of 26-year-old nurse Caitlyn Kaufman, who worked in the intensive care unit at Saint Thomas West Hospital.
At dawn, members of Metro Nashville Police Department’s SWAT team descended on an East Nashville apartment complex and made an arrest in the fatal shooting of a Nashville nurse who was driving to work when police say someone opened fire on her SUV.
Devaunte Lewis Hill, 21, was taken into custody at 6:15 a.m. in Kaufman’s death.
Nashville police Chief John Drake said Hill, a Nashville native, was arrested without incident at his Porter Road home in Berkshire Place Apartments. Hill was charged with criminal homicide in Kaufman’s evening slaying along Interstate 440 west in Nashville.
According to an arrest affidavit, on Thursday a concerned citizen told police they had information about the killing and identified Hill as the person who shot Kaufman. It goes on to state the person also told police about the possible whereabouts of the gun used in the shooting.
No other suspects have been named in the case. Homicide Detective Christopher Dickerson told reporters Friday morning that investigators had not ruled out the possibility of more suspects or arrests.
“I have a gamut of emotions right now, but I’m so relieved,” Kaufman’s mother, Diane Kaufman, told The Tennessean by phone late Friday morning. “A part of me is so relieved they got him. I just get chills every time I think about it.”
‘A courageous health care hero’: 26-year-old ICU nurse shot and killed on her way to work
Dickerson said he swore out an arrest warrant early Friday morning after getting the tip from the concerned citizen. The unidentified person also provided information about a gun that police later matched to three 9 mm shell casings found at the crime scene.
Investigators said data from Hill’s cell phone provider placed his phone in the I-440 area at the time of the shooting.
Dickerson said Hill consented to an interview after he was taken into custody and implicated himself in the slaying. He did not elaborate on what Hill told police.
The detective said Hill was a stranger to Kaufman.
“I can confirm they did not know each other,” Dickerson told reporters during a news conference at MNPD headquarters.
As of Friday, a motive in the killing had not been released publicly.
“While it was a relief to be able to sign the arrest warrant, it was an exceptional relief to be able to call Diane Kaufman, who is back in Pennsylvania right now,” Dickerson said. “She said that she was able to get some closure before the funeral. I’m glad to be in the position we are this morning.”
Drake said a reward for information that grew to over $65,000 after the shooting may have helped encourage people to report tips.
“I understand many of the persons involved in the rewards are dads who have families in Nashville and love Nashville deeply, and I thank them for their contribution,” Drake said.
‘My family will forever be grateful’
“If it weren’t for the generosity of the Nashville community I fear it wouldn’t have ever happened this quickly,” Diane Kaufman told The Tennessean. “My family will forever be grateful to them, and Detective Dickerson, Chief Drake and Don Aaron. I think I’m still in shock. I was in shock with the shooting, but now I’m in shock with the arrest. I’m just so thankful.”
After the slaying, Kaufman’s mother traveled to Nashville from the family’s hometown in Western Pennsylvania to meet with detectives and plead with the public for help in finding her daughter’s killer.
“Please help me find out who did this to my daughter,” she said Monday afternoon. “I need closure. Caitlyn was selfless…. She had a contagious laugh. She had beautiful blue eyes, a heart of gold.”
Kaufman was hired in 2018 at Saint Thomas West Hospital, where most recently her mother said she worked the midnight shift.
Police spokesman Don Aaron said homicide detectives have been working the case relentlessly since Kaufman died.
Detectives believe the shooting happened sometime between 6:05 and 6:10 p.m. while Kaufman was on her way to work for a shift that began at 7 p.m. Police say the person who killed her fired at least six shots fired into her Mazda CX-5 SUV.
Just before 9 p.m., a Metro Parks officer said he saw her SUV on the right shoulder of I-440 in between the West End Avenue and Hillsboro Road exits. The vehicle was against the guard rail so police said he stopped, thinking he’d come upon a single-car crash.
A medical examiner determined a single bullet that struck her shoulder and that she died within seconds of being hit.
Online records show Hill was booked into the Davidson County Jail just before 9:30 a.m. and was being held without bond. Police said Hill has a criminal history but would not elaborate.
Saint Thomas West Hospital released a statement after learning of Hill being charged.
“We are hopeful that justice for Caitlyn’s family will be served following the announcement that a suspect has been arrested as part of the ongoing investigation,” the statement reads. “Those who knew Caitlyn Kaufman witnessed the overwhelming compassion and kindness she showed for each person she cared for and worked alongside.”
A memorial service for Kaufman is set in her hometown for 7 p.m. Saturday.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Caitlyn Kaufman: Nashville police arrest 1 in fatal shooting of nurse