Shooting in living room leaves Army veteran feeling betrayed

SUWANEE -- Carmon McCurrie was sitting alone in his Suwanee living room, playing "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" online and listening to fellow gamers around the world talk trash to each other by way of his wireless headset. When sharp pain gripped the side of his head, McCurrie worried the high-end headphones had pierced his eardrum. But why would his knee hurt, too?

Then McCurrie was on the floor, looking at his blood. He saw glass that had spat across the room. Then he was in the arms of his frantic wife.

McCurrie, 43, was used to the pain and debilitation he felt at 10:50 p.m. on Dec. 15. The U.S. Army sergeant had been deployed for tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was medically released from the Army in 2005, due to injuries he suffered from a mortar-round attack on the latter tour. His spleen had been removed, his right arm repaired, and a titanium plate took the place of certain vertebrae in his spine. In six years he'd recovered to the point he could periodically work.

But now, the living-room floor.

Suwanee police investigators have charged McCurrie's longtime friend and Army cohort, Tim Amstutz, 47, with shooting him that night from the porch of McCurrie's Grand Park Drive home. McCurrie believes the shooter peeked through faux wood blinds near the front door, spotted him and fired. He said the shooting befuddles him.

"We were friends, from my understanding. We'd consider each other almost like brothers," McCurrie said Thursday, recovering at home. "I've never known him to attack a friend."

After the shooting, Amstutz fled Georgia. Authorities in Surry County, N.C., spotted his tan Ford Expedition and arrested him Friday. He was headed to his father's home in Virginia, said Suwanee police spokesman Capt. Clyde Byers.

North Carolina authorities found a shotgun, 9 mm and .22-caliber pistol in the Expedition, along with a spent shotgun casing on the floor, the Mount Airy News reported.

Amstutz is being extradited to Gwinnett, Byers said. A Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department official would not comment on the progress of Amstutz's extradition Thursday, citing safety concerns.

Byers said investigators think Amstutz's motive boils down to a personal dispute. A Suwanee police report from the shooting scene notes that McCurrie's wife, Amy, told officers her husband had argued with the suspect's wife about three weeks prior.

At one point, Amy McCurrie told police, Amstutz's wife, Carletta, warned: "You better watch who you're talking to. I'm crazier than you are." The matter was defused when Tim Amstutz picked up his wife and took her home. A number listed as the Amstutz residence was busy during calls Thursday afternoon.

McCurrie said he recalled the argument but didn't think it was a big deal. He'd helped move Amstutz from Smyrna, Tenn. to a home five miles away from his in Lawrenceville about six weeks prior to the shooting. His friendship with Amstutz dated back more than a decade, when they both were stationed at Ft. Campbell in Kentucky. Amstutz held the rank of specialist and was never deployed, McCurrie said.

"We used to call and talk to each other two and three times a week," McCurrie said. "He'd come down for my birthday. We rode motorcycles and stuff."

McCurrie's infant daughter and two teenage sons were in their bedrooms when he was shot. His injuries have prevented him from handling his daughter and have relegated him to a walker, he said.

Doctors told McCurrie his headphones absorbed some bullet fragments and could have saved his life, so he doesn't mind the $200 he'd spent on them. He's undergone reconstructive surgery on his nose and right ear; shrapnel was irrigated from his right knee; the spiderweb fracture on his skull is healing.

The prognosis?

Play it day by day, he said.

"I'm just waiting," he said. "I've got some more appointments coming up next week. What happens is what happens."