A 90-minute standoff on the Sixth Street railroad bridge ended Friday with a Richmond County sheriff’s candidate negotiating a robbery suspect’s surrender.
Yearby Foston, 33, was on the railroad trestle about 11 a.m., police said. Police had been searching for him since Thursday, when a woman identified him as the man who attacked, robbed and tried to rape her at a Peach Orchard Road insurance office.
The woman told authorities that Foston, a longtime customer of the business, had entered the office and hit her several times with a pistol and possibly a blunt object. He forced her to the ground at gunpoint and told her to take off her pants.
After she refused to remove her clothing, police said, the assailant hit her several more times, took a laptop and ran away.
Richmond County school Public Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree said he received a call from one of Foston’s relatives about 10:30 a.m., which became a three-way call with Foston on the line. Roundtree said Foston wanted to meet with him and told him to come to the Sixth Street railroad trestle.
“He told me where he was going to be, so I called the sheriff’s office,” said Roundtree, who is facing Capt. Scott Peebles in the Aug. 21 Democratic runoff for Richmond County sheriff.
When Foston walked out onto the bridge, Roundtree followed, along with a couple of sheriff’s deputies.
By 11 a.m., Foston was standing in the middle of the trestle talking with Roundtree as sheriff’s investigators, hostage negotiators, members of the SWAT team, fire rescue officers and North Augusta public safety officers arrived.
CSX Railroad was asked to stop trains on those tracks.
Capt. Scott Gay said negotiators initially believed Foston was armed but later discovered he was not.
“He does not want to go back to prison,” Gay said. “He has a long criminal history.”
Roundtree said the man was agitated by all the commotion and by friends and relatives who continued to call Foston on his cellphone while he stood on the bridge. Foston threatened to harm himself and others, investigators said.
“The best thing that happened was his cellphone fell into the water,” Roundtree said. “From that point on, he was only talking to me.”
Roundtree said Foston attempted to provoke officers into a physical confrontation a couple of times, but they were able to calm him down. He lauded the professionalism shown by sheriff’s deputies and SWAT team members who were keeping their eyes and weapons trained on Foston.
“We held on the fact that we knew he wanted help,” he said.
Roundtree said the suspect said he would jump and at one point leaped down to one of the bridge pilings and lay down.
After about an hour and a half, Roundtree said, he was able to talk Foston into climbing back up to the bridge, and officers took him into custody.
Foston faces charges of armed robbery, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and criminal attempted rape in connection with the Thursday incident.
Lt. Blaise Dresser said Foston will not face charges for Friday’s incident.
Paramedics were called after one of the suspect’s relatives become distraught, but they said she recovered quickly.