Angry crowd confronts police at housing project shooting scene

A loud and angry crowd numbering several hundred hurled rocks and bottles at Richmond County sheriff’s deputies Sunday after word spread that police had shot a fleeing suspect near the Cherry Tree Crossing housing project off 15th Street.

 

Many in the crowd told Chronicle reporters at the scene that the suspect had been killed, but the Richmond County coroner said at 7:15 p.m. that his office had not been notified. The Medical College of Georgia Hospital trauma unit had no deaths to report, he said.

Extra deputies were called in to handle crowd control and Chronicle reporters at the scene said they heard gunfire in the neighborhood beginning about 6:15 p.m.

Sheriff's Lt. Scott Peebles issued the following statement e-mailed to Augusta news organizatons about 8:30 p.m.

"At 4:21 p.m. today, two officers from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office were involved in a shooting incident, in which one man was shot by the officers on Carver Drive near its intersection with 15th Street.

"The investigation into the incident is being conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The sheriff intends to provide a briefing on the incident sometime tomorrow, after all of the facts have been obtained ...

"For information concerning the identity and condition of the suspect, or any other information, refer to the GBI," his statement read.

After the shooting, witnesses said the suspect's car continued to go down the street after deputies fired at it, eventually stopping when it ran into a gate near a tree.

Augusta City Commissioner Corey Johnson, whose district includes Cherry Tree Crossing, said Sunday night he’s spoken to a deputy and a member of the community, and he’s waiting for more information.

He said he was told the Sheriff’s Office got a tip that a stolen, black SUV in the area was carrying drugs and guns. Police found the Chevy SUV and boxed it in, parking one police car in front and one behind.

He said he was told the driver tried to escape, backing into the car behind him and ramming the one in front. The driver was shot while apparently trying to ram the squad car in front, Mr. Johnson said, and the man is now in critical condition.

Mr. Johnson said there was not a child in the vehicle, although several in Sunday crowd seemed to think there was.

Mr. Johnson said he understands the feelings of the public housing complex residents, but when the driver made a choice to ram police cars, he turned his vehicle into a weapon, giving police justification to defend themselves.

“It’s just an unfortunate situation,” Mr. Johnson said. “I hate that a man got shot. I hate that it happened the way it did.”

Mr. Johnson said rioting won’t solve anything.

“That’s not the answer,” he said. “The riot is not the answer. It’s not gonna’ help get to the bottom of the situation.”

Large crowds gathered near Carver Street after news spread of the shooting, and many were throwing rocks and bottles at the police, reporters at the scene said.

In an interview at the Sheriff's Office, GBI Agent Pat Morgan told The Chronicle about 6:50 p.m. that he had reviewed the shooting scene and was preparing to interview witnesses.

"This is my first time working a shooting in Richmond County like that. I've never seen it like this," he said when asked about the crowd.

Police units were pulling back from the area after 7 p.m. to avoid confrontations that would continue to provoke the crowd, a supervisor said.

Reporters said there was much smoke in the area at 8 p.m., believed to be coming from fires set in trash dumpsters.

Sheriff's Lt. Peebles said about 30 units responded to the scene after the shooting. After leaving the scene at about 6:40 p.m., he said police returned to the area about an hour later when firefighters were attacked with rocks and bottles.

"When we left they started setting cars on fire; setting dumpsters on fire," Lt. Peebles said. "So we are back down there and have it under high-intensity patrol."

 

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