Black Bear Attack Stopped with .45 on Second Floor of Motel

Greg Sapp and dog

On Thursday night, 7 November, 2019 a little after 11 p.m., at the Motel 6 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Greg Sapp was on the walkway outside of his and his wife, Vicki’s motel room on the second floor. He was getting a smoke. He did not know he would be emptying his Kimber .45 into a charging black bear within seconds.

Greg in Columbia Jacket

He was facing outward from the motel. Room 240 has one wall in common with the outside of the motel, with another in common with the breezeway that connects to the rooms on the other side of the motel. Greg was at the railing, with his back to the breezeway and the corner of the room. He had left the door of the motel room open a few inches, so he could communicate with Vicki.

The temperature was about 47 degrees. He was wearing a green Columbia winter jacket. It wouldn’t be easy to get at a holstered Kimber Ultra Carry II in an inside the waistband holster, wearing a zipped up winter jacket. Greg had put the pistol, cocked and locked, in his right front jacket pocket. Greg says he carries everywhere he goes, where it is legal. Both Greg and Vicki have Tennessee carry permits.

Greg and Vicki had ended up in the Motel 6 by mishap. They were in Gatlinburg to visit a friend from Michigan, who was spending a few days in the city. They had to drive a few hours. The reservations were for a pet friendly motel. By mistake, the staff had put them in a non-pet friendly room. They had brought their dog with them. They had to scurry to find a motel which would accommodate their pet.

View from Greg’s side of motel through the breezeway

At the railing, smoking, with his back to the breezeway, Greg heard a ruckus behind him.

Bam, bang, crash.

He turned around, and looked. There, no more than 20 feet away, its feet on a tipped over trash can, was a huge black bear. The bear did not notice him immediately.

But Greg’s dog had come out, and peaked around the corner. It growled and emitted a bark,! The bear jumped over the downed trash can, landed with a Woof!, and charged directly at Greg.

Everything happened extremely fast, but Greg had moved into the psychological state of tachypsychia, where everything seems to slow down. This is a common effect when a human perceives a deadly threat. The effect also distorts distance, and can cause tunnel vision, focused on the threat.

Greg said: Oh f*ck! The .45 Kimber appeared in his hand and he was firing, with the bear taking up his whole field of vision. Greg told me:

“Everything went into like, time lapse.” “It seemed like it took forever!”

In Greg’s heightened state of awareness, he could hear the first three bullets hit.

Thunk, thunk, thunk.

Then his ears were ringing. The bear dropped its head down as he fired the last three shots at extremely close range, Greg said it was three feet or less.

The bear hit the railing of the walkway two feet from him, turned left, and went down the walkway away from Greg, who had the empty Kimber in his hand.

Vicki, inside the room, heard Greg scream, and heard the shots, fired very fast.

Blam, blam, blam, blam, blam, blam!

The entire sequence, from the “Woof!” to the bear hitting the walkway took about two seconds.  Vicki made it to the motel door, and onto the walkway, to see the back of the bear moving down the walkway, away from them. Vicki said:

“This thing was huge. It took up almost the whole walkway!”

View down walkway where the bear departed the scene

The bear went down the stairs and into the forest. It was bleeding profusely.

Greg is a veteran with 10 years in Marine Corps Recon. He is 53 years old. He and Vicki have some acreage with their own private range. He is about 5′ 10″ tall and 180 pounds. He shoots there often.

His speed and accuracy are the expected results from practice.

Greg and Vicki called the police. When the police investigated, neither they, nor Vicki, could find any indication any of the bullets had impacted the hotel walls, walkway, or ceiling. All six bullets had gone into the bear and stayed there.

Greg had loaded the magazine with five rounds, with a round in the chamber. He had found, through experience, a fully loaded magazine to be less reliable in his little Kimber.

The cartridges were Federal HST rounds, an aggressive hollow-point design made for defense against humans. The Kimber Ultra Carry II has a three inch barrel, which likely reduces the velocity by 10-15% compared to a standard five inch barrel.

One neighbor said they had seen the bear previously, and believed it to be 500 lbs. Greg initially thought it was 350-400 lbs. Everyone agrees it was a big black bear.

In early November, with plentiful food, it would have had four inches of fat on, under the skin.

The HST rounds probably did not penetrate far enough to reach the bear’s vitals. Two weeks after the charge and shooting, a neighbor said he believed he had seen the bear back in the area, but he could not be certain. He said one big, black bear looks much like another big, black bear.

A retired officer commented about the bullet’s performance. He said years ago, he had seen a big black bear which had been hit by a car, in the late fall. An officer had shot it with a .40 caliber, in the neck, to put it out of its misery. The .40 caliber hollow point was not sufficient, and a 12 gauge slug was used to finish the job. When the taxidermist skinned out the bear, they found the expanded .40 caliber lodged in the bears neck. It had not penetrated to the spinal column or entered the chest cavity. In a test by, the HST .45 cartridge had one of the most aggressive expansion and the lowest velocities, of self defense .45 rounds.

Greg says he had considered bringing his Glock 29 10 mm instead of the Kimber .45, but he was not expecting to have to shoot a bear. He had left the Glock and took the Kimber. He thinks .45 full metal jacketed ball ammunition would likely have been sufficient to take down the bear.

When the police investigated, they followed the blood trail until it stopped. They did not find the bear. An officer asked why Greg had not retreated to the hotel room. Greg said there was no time to do so.

Blood trail of bear in Gatlinburg

Greg was not cited for shooting the bear. He was cited for reckless endangerment and unlawful discharge of a firearm. The police impounded his Kimber as evidence. The Kimber, with custom modifications, is worth about $1800.

Greg’s Kimber Ultra Carry II

Greg has contacted an attorney and will fight the charges.

The claw marks on the cement floor of the walkway show the bear was very close. There may be surveillance video of the bear at the motel.  The bear did not have to come at Greg.  It was not trapped in the breezeway. The breezeway behind the bear was open, with a stairway leading down, directly from the breezeway.

Vicki said, between the time they had checked in on Thursday, until they checked out, a sign had gone up near the register, warning about bears.

Both Greg and Vicki believe if Greg had not had his .45, he would have been mauled or killed.

Gatlinburg has a lot of bears in the town. There are many stories of bears wandering about the city. The city may perceive them as a tourist draw. Many residents believe the bears pose no threat. Tennessee wildlife managers disagree. From

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency experts are asking Tennesseans to educate themselves, and their neighbors, about proper behavior in bear country. They say bears that become habituated to human food pose a much greater human threat. The smell of grease on a grill, ripe vegetables in a garden, trash and bird feeders not only attract bears, they provide easy meals for bears. Once a bear gets this easy meal, it doesn’t forget. And the experts say, “A fed bear is a dead bear,” meaning they often have to be euthanized.

The bear experts say that simply capturing and relocating a conditioned, dangerous bear isn’t an option.

Gatlinburg is a tourist town. The video of the bear on the walkway of the Econolodge was taken less than two miles from the Motel 6, and posted on 28 October, 2019. It may have been the same bear.

Many people will be interested in Greg Sapp’s legal battles. If he loses on either charge, he might lose his Tennessee carry permit.

About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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Deplorable Bill

Reckless endangerment and unlawful use of a firearm? Confiscate the firearm for evidence?NUTS. The fact that he did not miss the bear negates the reckless endangerment issue. Unlawful use of a firearm? Self defense is a GOD given right and the right to life is clearly spelled out in the declaration of independence etc. Clearly if someone is expecting trouble one would be wearing a rifle or a shotgun. A handgun is utilitarian and defensive in nature. What was the guy supposed to do to defend himself? Use harsh language? Drop into a fetal position in hopes of not being… Read more »


@DB – forget cops shooting bears. Most cops would have shot a chihuahua in similar circumstances. This guy is luck they didn’t shot his dog for looking at them through the window.

1776 Patriot

“He was cited for reckless endangerment and unlawful discharge of a firearm. The police impounded his Kimber as evidence. The Kimber, with custom modifications, is worth about $1800.” Charged by a bear, 3-20 ft. away, every bullet hitting its target and he gets charged “for reckless endangerment and unlawful discharge of a firearm”. That’s pure and simple BS; hell, I’ve NEVER read of any shootings involving cops which exhibited that kind of control and accuracy. Cops and court officials wonder why citizens hold them in such low regard and then show abuse of process like this. The shooter should have… Read more »

Wild Bill

, I bet that it is a libtard prosecutor.

Will Flatt

That was my first thought, too. Prosecutors are like a man with a hammer, they think everyone’s a nail to be hammered down!! Commietard prosecutors believe they have a mandate to go after EVERY gun-owner no matter how small the PERCEIVED infraction!! I think TN needs a law to protect gun-owners from malicious prosecution, especially when there’s an imminent threat of bodily harm from wild animals and no human is injured!!


I can hear the cops now. “Wow man, that’s an $1800 Kimber. We need to confiscate that right now!” It’ll probably come up missing from the property room.

Wild Bill

, neither would they!


– I would. Then either use as project or put on consignment at local shop. Just the name should turn a profit. Definitely agree with your point that a carry guns first job is to work.

Ej harbet

Me too,the money itd bring could by and mod to my specs a glock model 40 10mm with a 6inch barrel.

Ryben Flynn

Ask for a jury trial. Plead not guilty to the charges. I would vote to acquit after hearing the circumstances. Obvious case of self defense.

Xaun Loc

In the unlikely case that he is actually charged (the prosecutor had not made any decision at the time of this article) he would be entitled to a jury trial — but if facing a jury he would have to hope his lawyer could get a change of venue to move the case to a large city like Nashville. If he faced a jury in Sevier County (where this occurred) he would probably be convicted of the charges plus terminal stupidity and being a city boy. At the very least, the lawyer would need to find some excuse to exclude… Read more »

Wild Bill

@XL, Well, that is one theory of jury selection. Were it I, I would not want his trial in any big city where the vast numbers of libtards may take the side of the bear.


XL, You sure wouldn’t want the trial held in Nashville. It is as liberal as the hollywierd people can make it. He had a gun and that is enough to put him away, there. Sevier County puts up with a lot of tourists from all over the country and that is not a good situation for these country boys that have to put up with tourists that do dumb things and tear things up. I’m thinking he will get off this charge.


So are you saying that his best option would have been to return to his room and pretend he didn’t know anything. As in “I didn’t see nuffin”

Ej harbet

Hes nuts if he doesn’t force a trial! Theres not enough woketards in Tennessee to convict him

Will Flatt

Doesn’t TN have a stand your ground law?? Seems to me that if a bear charges you from less than 21 feet you don’t stand a chance of getting out of harm’s way fast enough. I hope this fella sues the PD and prosecutor for malicious prosecution and deprivation of rights under color of law!!!

Also, that’s why all my pistols are all under $600 quality-but-inexpensive models. Who wants to have a $1500-$3000 custom .45 tied up in police lockup for months on end, or worse, confiscated permanently!!

Charlie Foxtrot

I agree with your post, except for the 21-foot rule, which relates to humans and is not even a legal standard. How fast does a black bear attack a human? I would say faster than a human, but then I have not measured it like Tueller did.

Will Flatt

My bad for not crafting my post well enough; I was not trying to imply there is a legal standard to the “21 foot rule”. This ‘rule’ of thumb is subjective enough just with people; with large powerful wildlife such as bears or other big game one may need an even bigger distance to react more effectively than a quick-draw! The fact that the bear was able to close that gap in the two seconds it took for the shooter to do a mag-dump, rather proves the 21-foot ‘rule’ at least in this case. The bear was able to close… Read more »

Wild Bill

@WF, We knew what you meant. I think that The 21 foot rule of thumb got shortened to the 21 foot rule cause it is easier to say, and is a lot easier to say than The Twenty-one Foot Attack Distance Reduction Interval to Defensive Reaction Time Ratio Equation

Will Flatt

ROFL when you say it like THAT… yeah!

Charlie Foxtrot

+1 on the 10mm option. I carry my Glock 20 when I am anywhere in or near the woods in TN.


What Will said. My EDC is a gnarly old Belgian made BHP, it got rusted somehow on the slide , both faces, and so it looks ugly. That’s why I got it for cheap at a gun show way back. Functionally it is perfect. Cosmetically? Not so much. But should the day ever come for me to NEED it, neither the bullet nor the one catching it will have a care for how it LOOKS. And I’ve got about three more behind that one so if the coppers decide they need some “evidence” I won’t be disarmed for longer than… Read more »


– For ugly I’ve got a tokarev. Anybody know how that works on bears? Similar energy to 10mm. 7.62mm is a tiny hole, but should make necessary penetration depth which is the third critical factor (behind reliability & accurate enough).


To quote from the song “Bubba Shot the Juke Box”
“Reckless discharge of a gun
That’s what the officers are claiming
Bubba hollered, “Reckless! Hell!”
“I shot just where I was aiming.”


No duty to retreat.


He should have used the PC bear spray instead of a gun. His tombstone could have read, “At least he didn’t use a gun and did the acceptable thing for the good of the bear.”


If the DA takes up this case, we should flood his or her office with emails of protest. I don’t care who you are, everyone has the right to defend themselves, and the police in this case is going to do nothing but humiliate themselves by trying to restrict that right. I can see it now. “Your honor, this man did not give the bear a fighting chance by shooting first, and only asking questions later. Surely we can catch him in a perjury trap?!” For the longest time, maybe twenty years or so, I had a warrant out for… Read more »


That’s because it is. Welcome to the Red Queen’s lair, as orchestrated by all those “wokies” on the left.


So, another place to scratch off the list?


“Reckless endangerment”. Seems to me that every bullet staying in the bear shows quite the opposite. Any sane jury would rule him not guilty for obvious reasons. Not familiar with Tennessee residents, but he may be royally screwed. Unlikely any plea deal offered would do him any good.


As is always the way. They offer plea bargains, KNOWING full well that if they can get one to compromise away his rights once, that one will do so, again and again, until the whole concept of ‘rights’ gets confused into government permission slips. just as it now has been. The way for good men to triumph is to ask for no quarter, and give none either. Lock horns with the evil… and force them to back down! There’s no other way. And good luck to him. Never surrender, even if they offer a 25 cent fine! It will come… Read more »


The “jury” can use NULLIFICATION of all charges which are applicable here in this case.

Xaun Loc

Any jury in Sevier County would probably convict him on those charges and want to add charges of terminal stupidity and being a city boy.

1776 Patriot

The nine scariest words in the English language, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” F’ ALL government bureaucrats, especially armed bureaucrats, and politicians!

Xaun Loc

“Reckless Endangerment” would be much more reasonable if we believe his initial statement to the police where he said he fired five rounds and he thought one of them might have hit the bear. After speaking with his lawyer he now remembers hearing the first three bullets hit the bear and is sure that all his rounds hit the bear which was so close it filled his entire view. And he now also remembers his dog growling and barking at the bear, which would give a plausible explanation for the black bear acting hostile. Police normally make an arrest in… Read more »


“Police have no way to know if the bear actually attacked (very unusual behavior for a black bear)” Obviously you do not live around black bears. Black bears living and feeding around human habitation have no fear of humans. More people are attacked by black bears than by grizzly bears.


Yeah! Its not like six shots got fired in a motel, heard by lots of witnesses and following up blood trails and other such forensic evidence. How is a LEO (with their mandatory low IQs) supposed to figure that out?
The blood was probably from a fistfight the night before and all the witnesses probably just got mass hysteria or something. That’s probably why they have no way of investigating. Because they are the first ones on the scene, and trained to investigate, right?


Seems to me that claw marks as described in article are fairly clear evidence of the bears presence. Given number of shots heard by others as well as cases I’m sure the found on scene – the absence of bullet holes in the walls makes it clear that unless he was firing blanks, he hit something. As to whether the bear was attacking, I’d be surprised the bear ran from his shots, but if I understood correctly claw marks on the hallways floor show that the bear made a hard stop and reversed direction just short of where the shooter… Read more »


@XL – even been in a sudden high stress situation? While time may slow down during the event, it can take a long time afterwards for your mind to catch up on processing all the info that was pushed aside, allowing like ghtning reaction to what mattered. It is quite likely that immediately afte, he only knew that the bear charged and he shot. Hours or even days later he’s still remembering details of what he saw and heard.


When the dead bear is found hope they drop the charges. Just idiotic.


The old timers knew what they were doing when they killed of the bears around here.
Now they are being imported will again become a threat to humans.

Wild Bill

@J, Sorry, but why, again, are they importing old timers?

Wild Bill

@OV, Ahhh yes. I should have seen it! HTGD to you also!




And oh by the way: it’s not the Kimber. It was designed, as was the .45 ACP round, to be a people stopper not a bear stopper. The .45 ACP in fact only travels at about 850 FPS delivering only 355 FPE or so: same as the venerable .38 special. My nines do more, and cause way more damage (1175 FPS delivering 455 FPE to the target at ten yards) and, with more than twice the rounds at my disposal. If you want an “all-around stopper,” get yourself a double-stack 10mm. It will penetrate bear with room to spare. I… Read more »


9mm is fine from a pocket pistol, but stout 10mm would be a handful. Besides 10mm deserves at least a 4” barrel, better yet 5-6”. If you cannot properly control 10mm and maintain fast accurate fire then 9mm is probably a better choice. I’m far more likely to face a rabid skunk or coyotes than a bear so 9mm is a better choice for me. Also as a cheapskate, until I take up reloading I will not practice enough to master 10mm. Again 9mm wins – for me, now. If I travelled bear country more (at all) then I’d probably… Read more »


Don’t run from a bear they are faster.
When the police investigated, they followed the blood trail until it stopped. They did not find the bear. An officer asked why Greg had not retreated to the hotel room. Greg said there was no time to do so.


But he had time to raise his green coat, withdraw the weapon, cock it and fire? Sounds like BS to me.

AK Don

The Kimber was in his coat’s outside pocket…read the article again.


In outside pocket, cocked and locked. In time it takes to draw and fire, I can maybe take a step and a half if I’ve got a running start. Much faster than changing direction, reaching door knob, and letting hungry bear into the room with my wife. Think about that last part.


Wow did you actually read the story? He did not raise his coat, he did not cock the Kimber either.


One more reason to carry a double stack gun.

Deplorable Bill

I used to compete in the snubby class in a combat pistol league. I used a colt officer model in 45ACP. I put something near 9,000 rounds down range with that particular firearm. Jams were less than one per thousand rounds fired. I would not feel under gunned to ever carry it. VERY fast cycle time, VERY short trigger reset, VERY BIG slow moving heavy bullet. Mag capacity is 6 but there are 7 rounders made for it and you can drop an 8 rounder in it with minimal protrusion. What’s not to love?

Arm up, carry on.

Charlie Foxtrot

There are always multiple sides to a story and different aspects to consider. This article is obviously the carefully worded position of Mr. Sapp. Gatlinburg PD obviously has a different position. The court appearance is next week and I hope this gets thrown out immediately. We do tend to have a lot of idiots visiting East Tennessee that have never encountered wildlife before. They typically react the opposite way, though, and do not see the danger they are in. Black bears are quite common even within cities. Gatlinburg PD probably thinks that Mr. Sapp overreacted and started shooting at the… Read more »

Charlie Foxtrot

The Kimber Ultra Carry II seems to be very popular, despite the fact that it is the worst of the subcompact .45 1911s. All subcompact .45 1911s suck! The .45 1911 design was never meant for the subcompact form factor. The 9mm 1911 subcompacts seem to work. Read the description of the Rob Pincus video I posted. No-one has ever gotten a subcompact .45 1911 through one of his classes without a malfunction since his original challenge in 2012. The full paragraph of the part you cited says it all: “Greg had loaded the magazine with five rounds, with a… Read more »


; I agree with the use of Wilson magazines. Never had a FTL while using them.

Wild Bill

@Laddy, I have five Wilson ten round mags. I’ve had then for 17 years, and they are as perfectly reliable as the first day!


I carry my Glock 36 with hardball handloads that reach 5″barrel performance. 20 oz. Never a malfunction. I put highest value on penetration, especially in the wild.


The JOB of a “police” is to find, or contrive, an ordnance or law you broke so you can be arrested or charged with so YOU have to pay into the “judicial system” to DEFEND yourself in court. YOU ARE GUILTY till you PROVE yourself INNOCENT!!!!!!

Wild Bill

@Laddy, I suppose that there are some like that, but I would lay that at the feet of the prosecutor, more than police.


You ain’t kidding, I had a $1,600 Kimber ultra covert Il and that pos went back to the factory six times before I gave up and sold it back to the place I bought it from for $1,000 less. The experience really soured my thoughts about Kimber and 1911’s for a long time.

Heed the Call-up

I wonder how many of the malfunctions Pincus saw were from limp-wristing, or other shooting deficiencies. Mishandling the safety clearly means the shooter is not familiar enough with the firearm to be using it for that course, and clearly not as a self-defense firearm. In that video he even claimed that only about 10% of all 1911s don’t malfunction in his training classes. Since the 1911 was used by our military for over 70 years, I can’t imagine it would have been selected and used for so long if it was that unreliable. Since .45 ACP has a strong recoil,… Read more »


I’m no spring chicken, been shooting since I was 8 & I’m close to half a century now. Like CF stated, maybe it has something to do with the subcompact 1911’s. It took me a few years to get the sour taste out of my mouth but I gave kimber a try again but went full-size this time and it’s one of my favorite carry firearms.


– a smart dog never gets within a bears reach. With two or more, they are able to take turns distracting it while another attacks from the rear. Even then, they just convince the bear that there are easier meals – or gain time for their human to flee or arm up. Besides, that’s just a little snuggly dog. A decent LGD should be at least 2-3 times the size.

Xaun Loc

Interesting to see how this story has evolved — and how his account of the events has changed after he got a lawyer. His initial statement was that he thought he might have hit the bear once. Now he is certain that he heard the first three bullets hit the bear. I love how the story now makes a point about the bear having a duty to retreat — clearly Tennessee’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law doesn’t include bears. I don’t know what happened, and unless there happens to be decent surveillance video we will probably never know, but without any… Read more »


I found three local news stories, from the day after the incident, that all say he told police he didn’t miss. Where have you heard different?


“the story now makes a point about the bear having a duty to retreat” where the [email protected] does it say that!?


This story is hokey from the sound of it. I’ve hiked in the area for years. Bears will run from you every time. Most of the time they see you before you see them and they are high-tailing it out of the area. In this case the dog probably scared the bear and he was looking for a way to escape from the dog. The shooter just happened to be in the bear’s path. Guys like this don’t need to be carrying because they are paranoid anyway. The walls of those cheap motels in Gatlinburg are made of cardboard. He… Read more »


Bears run from people every time? He should lose his gun and carry license because a bear didn’t run from him on a three foot wide hotel balcony?

Not everyone is all knowing, fearless, and infallible like you.


@ttb – What difference does wall construction make? Few motels separate rooms with brick, concrete, or other materials substantial enough to matter. While it happens far to often, lethal spots on a human are far smaller than you think. Even random shots in such a space are unlikely to cause any fatalities (thou still quite unacceptable). This guy hit the bear with every shot – so shots were quite controlled rather than random. All those deaths from stray bullets that you hear about are not due to lethality of random/stray bullets but due to the insanity that is inner city… Read more »