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Rate of police shootings tops numbers in major cities

Sheriff says criminals are more violent

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Thursday's shooting of a theft suspect by a Richmond County sheriff's deputy is the third time Augusta officers have used their firearms so far this year.

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Sheriff's deputies and investigators look over the scene where a theft suspect was fatally shot by an officer Thursday.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Sheriff's deputies and investigators look over the scene where a theft suspect was fatally shot by an officer Thursday.


Since Sept. 6, when a 22-year-old man was shot to death outside a Washington Road restaurant, officers have fired their weapons at people a total of five times, killing three men.

Based on population, Augusta has maintained a higher rate of police shootings than much larger cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

The rate of police shootings in Augusta over the past 12 months is 2.5 per 100,000 residents, which includes Thursday's shooting. It is the same rate The Augusta Chronicle calculated in November 2009 after a string of police shootings that began in 2008.

In New York, the rate of police shootings was 0.29 last year; in Los Angeles it was about 0.41 and in Miami, 0.24. One city with a higher rate is Spokane, Wash., at 3.5 because of seven shootings there since August.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said the number of recent shootings by officers is directly linked to their encounters with increasingly violent suspects.

"We live in a much more violent society than we ever have, and that's not just locally," he said. Crime has lessened, but the suspects are more violent, he said.

About 6:30 a.m. Thursday, Deputy Bill Walker spotted a car that matched the description given to him the day before by a Kirk Place resident whose vehicle was stolen, Strength said.

Walker called for backup, but before another officer could reach his Bransford Road location, Walker shot 24-year-old David A. Dawkins as the suspect resisted arrest and aimed a handgun at him, Strength quoted his officer as saying.

Law enforcement expert Maria Haberfeld said violence in the United States is related to the proliferation of weapons. It might be time to look at what open access to weapons has done to the country, said the chairwoman of the department of law, police science and criminal justice at John Jay College in New York City.

New York City had 93 fatal police shootings in 1971, according to a recent article in The New York Times . In 2010, that number was eight.

Haberfeld said the drop in fatal shootings is attributed to more and better training, but it is also because of the heightened public scrutiny of police shootings.

Still, considering there are a half-million law enforcement officers in the U.S., it's surprising there aren't more such incidents, she said.

According to the first national study of its kind, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 1,540 people were killed by police officers between 2003 and 2006.

But only 14 percent of all law enforcement agencies had a fatal shooting in that time period.

Philip Sweeting -- a retired Boca Raton, Fla., officer who now consults and serves as an expert on use of force and other law enforcement issues -- said in an e-mail that the number of police shootings in Augusta might reflect a need for the department to examine the reasons for the incidents.

"There could be a number of reasons valid or otherwise ... "

The numbers alone don't necessarily mean there's a problem, Sweeting said, but if the department doesn't take a hard, objective look, no one will know for sure.

Strength said he believes his officers will be cleared in each shooting.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is in charge of looking into the Richmond County police shootings where people are wounded or killed.

Once investigations are completed, the cases are turned over to the district attorney.

Most recent incidents

In the past six months, officers have fired at people in Augusta five times:

SEPT. 6: Kevin B. Pao, 22, was shot to death in the back seat of a patrol car by Deputy Walter Garrison who told investigators he shot an armed Pao during a struggle.

DEC. 8: Bobby Flippo, 34, was shot to death in the driver's seat of his vehicle by Deputy Corey Carlyle who told investigators an armed Flippo threatened to kill himself and his baby who was in the back seat of the car.

JAN. 16: Phillip Pope, 24, was shot and wounded at a Deans Bridge Road business by Deputy Austin Shepherd, who told investigators the burglary suspect, armed with a crowbar, struggled with him and tried to flee.

JAN. 31: Fredrick D. Hall, 23, was shot at but not wounded by two officers who reported an armed Hall fired at them after fleeing a pat-down search on London Boulevard.

FEB. 9: David A. Dawkins, 24, was shot and killed by Deputy Bill Walker, who told investigators an armed Dawkins aimed a gun at him while resisting arrest.

Comments (64) Add comment
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Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 02/13/11 - 04:32 am
0
0
Officers and deputies don't

Officers and deputies don't need ridiculous articles such as this to make them second guess theirselves which some already do. Each and every time a deputy has HAD to fire his weapon it was because of the actions of the other person. Thank God each of these deputies was able to do their job well and live to see another day. Often times deputies leave law enforcement afterwards because of the toll such situations place on them - they didn't ask to have to draw or fire their weapon but they were forced to do so and their training kicked in at the right time.

That being said, the RCSO does need another non-lethal option. Tasers are far better than ASP Batons or even hand to hand combat. Tasers offer officers another tool in their box to difuse the situation without injury to theirselves or having to draw their firearm.

Also, in most of the major cities listed above two officers are assigned to every car - that alone helps to greatly difuse situations prior to their esculation. In Augusta, we can barely get the commission to fund one deputy per car or keep enough on the streets so that they will have back up arrive in a timely fashion.

Thank you greatly to each of the deputies who have performed their duties well and lived to see another day.

Brad Owens
4097
Points
Brad Owens 02/13/11 - 07:02 am
0
0
And the murder rate on the

And the murder rate on the criminal side?

Brad

bree026
0
Points
bree026 02/13/11 - 07:16 am
0
0
......

......

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 02/13/11 - 07:27 am
0
0
Well said, Asti. There is

Well said, Asti. There is nothing that I can add

tbmuch
0
Points
tbmuch 02/13/11 - 07:33 am
0
0
Sandy and all those that are

Sandy and all those that are concerned with the shootings by officers of the law, what in the world would you have these officers to do when confronted with those that are bent on doing harm to them or to society at large. Abide by the law and you'll be fine.

JohnScott213
10
Points
JohnScott213 02/13/11 - 08:11 am
0
0
You hit the nail on the head

You hit the nail on the head Asitisinaug. Why is it that when judging deadly shooting situations involving law enforcement, it is implied that the escalation of force is brought on by the officer? I can't help but think that this article is meant to stir the pot and (again) create controversy. (I would also take issue with the quote from the law enforcement "expert" who says that the proliferation of weapons is also the cause of this. I would clarify that, if I could interject, by saying that it is the proliferation of ILLEGAL weapons that is part of the problem. Restrictions on gun ownership and where they can be carried only hurts the ones who obey laws. But I digress.)

Being a deputy, I have worked in Richmond County and Columbia County, and I can say from my experience, that there is a general disrespect for authority and law enforcement in particular that seems to be perpetuated in RC. Maybe it is perpetuated by the attitudes of the ones in charge of county budgets, or the ones who lead certain church congregations, the media or whomever. But, it is a prevalent perception that deputies are hot-headed, power mongers who have nothing better to do than to harass the public. And when the criminal element thinks that way too, it's not much of a stretch for them to resist with violence when confronted by a deputy.

The bottom line is, though we may not be able as citizens to provide financing for all the needed equipment and training for our deputies, we can support them and show respect for them for the difficult job they do (with lousy pay and minimal benefits, I might add). My hat is off to my fellow deputies, and I have nothing but admiration for them. And to Bill, you're in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

corgimom
26219
Points
corgimom 02/13/11 - 08:08 am
0
0
JohnScott, there are many,

JohnScott, there are many, many people that respect and admire what you and your fellow deputies do. But I agree with you, there is a certain element that disrespects authority. I believe that disrespect comes from the judicial system in Augusta, where there is little repercussions from criminal behavior.

It is exacerbated by the critical shortage of deputies in RC- the criminals know that there's a good chance they won't be caught, and even if they are, nothing much will come of it.

It has been my experience that the only ones that are so critical of the police using force are the criminals. Decent law-abiding folks don't worry about the police using force, because they don't commit crimes. Ignore the nonsense, just keep doing your very difficult job, and go home safe at the end of every shift.

JohnScott213
10
Points
JohnScott213 02/13/11 - 08:24 am
0
0
corgimom, thank you for your

corgimom, thank you for your comment. I, of course, am not speaking of the law abiding citizens like you. I found when I was at Richmond County, that there were people like you who really appreciated us - and not just when you called us! I guess I've gotten spoiled a little bit, because I see more of the citizens' appreciation on a regular basis in Columbia County than I did over there (the reasons for that could be a whole other subject for debate). However, people like you made the job easier, especially when you pulled us aside and just thanked us for serving and protecting. It always made my day to hear that. I would certainly encourage everyone to do that, and I thank all of you who have done so.

TruthJusticeFaithHope
210
Points
TruthJusticeFaithHope 02/13/11 - 08:45 am
0
0
Thank you all ... for all of

Thank you all ... for all of your comments. The article was more of a personal guest editorial than a news article. Yes, statistics were inserted, yet the real point was to question the appropriateness of the decisions the officers made... ones that they had to make. In each instance, the decisions were absolutely correct. In addition, every officer knows that each incident of a weapon discharge will be investigated as well as each use of deadly force. These investigations are essential, objective, and critical to the process. Beyond the investigation, the district attorney reviews the results. That is a solid process by objective and respected professionals. The journalist should write a letter to the editor to express what she really was trying to say.

TruthJusticeFaithHope
210
Points
TruthJusticeFaithHope 02/13/11 - 08:52 am
0
0
Sorry... the system printed

Sorry... the system printed the comment twice....

mparadiso29877
32
Points
mparadiso29877 02/13/11 - 09:35 am
0
0
I applaud the article and the

I applaud the article and the responses. There are always two sides to a story and if Augusta would be given the proper tools to deal with the criminal element, our crime could be lowered. But let us be real. We will never elimate crime when poverty continues to be a major cause. You will never get people to stop the criminal activity until employment is provided and an updated transportation system is implemented. Augusta is no Atlanta, but it needs to come into the 21st century.

bclicious
609
Points
bclicious 02/13/11 - 09:40 am
0
0
Sounds to me like the

Sounds to me like the deputies of Augusta Richmond County are on a roll. Good job deputies on making that range time work for you. As a law enforcement officer you should never feel ashamed on having to use your firearm to defend yourself and the lives of others. Always remember, "When in doubt, fill your hands!" If any of you went through the police academy in Blythe, you understand me, and you know who said this.

Riverman1
78415
Points
Riverman1 02/13/11 - 09:42 am
0
0
Personal guest editorial?

Personal guest editorial? Sandy Hodson is the best, most honored investigative writer the Chronicle has. I usually tick everyone off when I comment on the RCSO, but I try to be as objective as I can. The crime rate is horrific in parts of the county, the old city area in particular. The last few police shootings were perfectly justified with the bad guys actually having guns or other weapons and attacking the officers. The officer has to protect himself.

However, the Justin Elmore killing was totally off the charts as far as the proper action to take. Elmore, who hadn't committed a crime, backed up and turned up on the lawn to avoid Ortiz. Ortiz shot at him through the side window as Elmore drove by on the lawn and as Ortiz stood in the road. They finally killed him a hundred yards away. Police actions such as that create a situation where it is unlikely a bad guy is going to give up. Mistakes that go unaddressed have repercussions. The bad guys fear surrendering to the police.

Does anyone ever watch the police shows on TV where they chase bad guys? Never once have I see them fire into the vehicle. In some cases they have to jump out of the way as the vehicle charges them, etc.

So where does all this take us? As many of us have said, community policing builds trust both ways. The public gets to know the officer, helps and informs him of activities. But the officer also changes from being closer to the people, knowing them and not having an us of them attitude. Community policing is nothing more than the Sheriff Andy approach while Barney riding around in his cruiser represents the way we police now.

Ushouldnthave
0
Points
Ushouldnthave 02/13/11 - 10:07 am
0
0
Riverman, your facts (as

Riverman, your facts (as usual) are wrong.

JohnScott213
10
Points
JohnScott213 02/13/11 - 10:13 am
0
0
I don't believe poverty

I don't believe poverty causes crime. Quality of character can sustain you through many desperate situations, poverty being one. It has to do with how you are raised; raised to know that most of us will have to work in life to succeed. I know many people who have come from poverty and have gone on to be contributing members of society. I have also dealt with many people who have more disposable income (from various entitlement programs) than I, yet they still claim to be victims of an oppressive society. Being poor does not cause you to rob, steal and/or pull a gun on a cop. Stupid choices do.

seenitB4
79533
Points
seenitB4 02/13/11 - 10:15 am
0
0
Criminals are more desperate

Criminals are more desperate & violent...I agree with that...but I can't agree that more poverty can cause more bad guys......MANY have been poor---many have done w/o food---are they stealing FOOD to eat or have they been stealing tvs-ipods-credit cards-money- etc. (maybe to buy drugs)
You can be poor & proud....sometimes dire childhoods make a person more determined to have a good life......for instance Dolly Parton--Oprah Winfrey.....how many of the criminals have gone to school in a coat made of rags?

Riverman1
78415
Points
Riverman1 02/13/11 - 10:20 am
0
0
Ushouldnthave, do you have a

Ushouldnthave, do you have a specific point or are you just making a generalization?

IEAN
0
Points
IEAN 02/13/11 - 10:24 am
0
0
Although I do support our law

Although I do support our law enforcement and agree that they have alot of red tape to get tangled in before doing the job they are sworn to do, I have to attest that many officers are anabolic steroid users and were trigger happy gun heads even before they started with the department. I know these things to be true as I have had a few close friends with Richmond County and also have a relative.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 02/13/11 - 12:49 pm
0
0
John you have said a mouth

John you have said a mouth full when you mentioned the entitlement programs. They are the root problem in a lot of poor families. The children are born into some families that are second and third generation welfare families and they do not know how to teach their young anything when it comes to homework, economics, birth control and all other things that make life decent. The child grows up thinking it is the government and taxpayers responsibility to take care of them. They will not work and if they do they are not responsible because they do not know how to be. They then start having children of their own that get into the system and the cycle starts again. The Hispanics come and take the jobs that they will not do right and the hispanics are dependable and do the job without any backtalk and then they (not the Hispanics) are left walking the streets stealing and doing anything easy to get money or the things that you and I have worked to acquire. If one of these people pull a weapon on a police officer and gets hurt or killed then so be it. I would rather have a live police officer than a live criminal. The officer gets my respect and the criminal does not..

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 02/13/11 - 12:22 pm
0
0
I grew up in the thirties

I grew up in the thirties during the height of the great depression. Most families were living at or below the poverty line. CRIME WAS NOT A PROBLEM. Most families did not lock their doors. People walked the streets at night with no fear of being mugged. Poverty is not responsible for crime today. Broken families are.

Ushouldnthave
0
Points
Ushouldnthave 02/13/11 - 12:23 pm
0
0
It would take to long to

It would take to long to point out the specific points where you are wrong, so I take the 'generally" choice.

mc
141
Points
mc 02/13/11 - 12:23 pm
0
0
Looks to me like they are

Looks to me like they are asking the officers a question, did I make the right decision, shoot or be shot? I don't think thats a hard question to answer. From what I see, a gun was pulled on them. Not the other way around. Self defence. It takes a stupid person to pull a gun on an officer that highly trained to use his weapon. And sometimes there is only one way to fix stupid. Especcially when its shoot or be shot.

dichotomy
29815
Points
dichotomy 02/13/11 - 12:25 pm
0
0
I don't care how our shooting

I don't care how our shooting rate stacks up against any other place. It isn't high enough as far as I am concerned. If someone runs or resists they should pop 'em and drop 'em. Once a perp has a gun in his hand, the officer has waited too late to shoot. At that point it is 50/50 as to who is going to die. We don't pay these young men enough to take that chance. We don't even pay them enough to be chasing and wrestling with these punks. A foot pursuit should consist of two sounds. "Halt" followed shortly by "bang".

The commenter who speaks of "Andy" style community policing should realize that we are no longer dealing with criminals like Otis, the town drunk. We are dealing with heathens that will kill you, or an officer, for absolutely no reason. They have no respect for anyone, and have not had any parenting or education on the acceptable limits of society. Nobody has ever given them rules to follow and put limits on their activities and that is why they think they can do as they please and run from, or fight, law enforcement officers. Parents need to take a close look at the children and consider if they are raising one that is destined to kill someone or be killed by law enforcement. When that happens, it is usually your fault, not the cops. This has nothing to do with poverty. It has everything to do with parenting and discipline both at home and in our schools. We no longer have either.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 02/13/11 - 12:28 pm
0
0
Let me add that broken

Let me add that broken families are not the only cause of crime. There are many such as single mothers and entitlements and I suspect that TV programing is a contributor.

Riverman1
78415
Points
Riverman1 02/13/11 - 12:35 pm
0
0
Dichotomy, as a WASP

Dichotomy, as a WASP Republican I generally agree with your desire for law and order. But here is the problem, no matter how this population got here or what they are, it's the hand Richmond County has been dealt and we have to play with it. We need to lower the crime rate and violence. Nothing has worked so far that the RCSO has tried, but other communities have improved results with community policing.

The black Charleston City Police Chief, Ruben Goldberg, went among the inner city residents on an almost daily basis and listened to them. He encouraged his officers to walk among the people. Following the community concept of policing he was able to markedly improve the crime rate. That's what community policing is about.

Riverman1
78415
Points
Riverman1 02/13/11 - 12:34 pm
0
0
"It would take to long to

"It would take to long to point out the specific points where you are wrong, so I take the 'generally" choice."

Translated.....You have none.

Austin Rhodes
2852
Points
Austin Rhodes 02/13/11 - 12:41 pm
0
0
Justin Elmore was under

Justin Elmore was under orders to stay off housing authority property. He had ammo in the car, which means he likely had a weapon at some point recently. He was driving his own expensive vehicle even though he did not have any REAL (and legal) legitimate means of support. Finally, he ran from cops as a convicted felon.

Gee Riverman...this has all been covered before.

As far as tasers go...they often either fail, or are ineffective. Rodney King was hit twice and would not go down. Besides, most anyone who is stupid enough to pull or point a gun at a cop is an individual the world is better off without.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 02/13/11 - 12:45 pm
0
0
ushould have, which or whose

ushould have, which or whose comment are you refering to? Give a synopsis of your opinion. I would like to read it.

Riverman1
78415
Points
Riverman1 02/13/11 - 12:51 pm
0
0
Austin, what we both know is

Austin, what we both know is that although Elmore was a scumbag, having some bullets in a vehicle means nothing. We also both know Elmore backed up away from Ortiz and pulled up on the lawn to go around him. Ortiz fired through the side window as the vehicle passed yards away from him. But you are right...It's all been covered and Ashley Wright saw to it that the Grand Jury did nothing. Old news that just may be related to what's going on today. That's my point.

Riverman1
78415
Points
Riverman1 02/13/11 - 12:53 pm
0
0
Hey, Austin, are you going to

Hey, Austin, are you going to do a racial breakdown of these shootings as you did with those who were murdered in Richmond Cty? By the way, I think the officers were justified in every case presented in this article.

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