In one of those strange moments in which life imitates art, outlaw country pioneer Randy Howard was killed in a gun battle with a bounty hunter after failing to appear in court. The legend — who was a formative artist in the genre that also brought us Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and more — was in trouble with the law, according to local news. WSMV out of Nashville reports that Howard faced charges in Marion County for fourth offense DUI, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a gun while intoxicated, and driving on a revoked license. When he didn’t appear in court, a bounty hunter picked up the case.
Police said that when the bounty hunter arrived at his home, Howard opened fire on him. The bounty hunter returned fire, fatally wounding the singer. But the death of the 65-year-old musician who shared the stage with Willie Nelson and Charlie Daniels has now brought up the issue of bounty hunters requiring tighter restrictions, as just recently addressed on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In Tennessee, a license isn’t required for the job, and while the bounty hunter did have a warrant, WSMV reports that the investigators said Howard was inside his home, where he had a right to defend himself. Now the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is on the case.
Either way, Randy Howard decided from the beginning that he wasn’t going out over something like this. According to his neighbor, “He said he wasn’t going back to jail. That’s what he told me.” That definitely sounds like the man who helped found outlaw country.