Deputy's killer was Evans High grad

Killer had local ties, drinking problem
Christopher Michael Hodges

The Tennessee National Guardsman who shot a Richmond County deputy dead before killing himself had local ties, authorities say.

A principal at Evans High School said Monday that Christopher Michael Hodges, 26, graduated from the Columbia County school in 2004.

Hodges has been identified as a Fort Gordon-based guardsman who shot Deputy James “J.D.” Paugh, 47, a motorcycle patrolman who stopped to investigate a vehicle parked off the road at Gordon Highway and Bobby Jones Expressway early Sunday morning.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength told The Associated Press that the woman with Hodges on Sunday morning said he “definitely had a drinking problem” and grabbed an assault rifle from his trunk after she made him pull over because he was driving drunk.

“She said he had been drinking and he was drunk and that when he gets drunk, he gets violent,” Strength said.

Hodges served in the Tennessee National Guard but had been training at Fort Gordon for six months. Strength said Hodges’ girlfriend told police that they argued in the car after he had gotten drunk at a friend’s house.

Hodges pulled off the highway and into the grass after “she got mad and said, ‘Let me out. I want to go home,’ ” Strength said.

The sheriff said Hodges didn’t shoot at the woman, whose name wasn’t released, but seemed to be randomly firing as he emptied one magazine on the M4 rifle and loaded another. Investigators found at least 40 shell casings, though no motorists reported being hit, Strength said. He said authorities were working to trace the gun, and Fort Gordon officials had determined it didn’t come from the Army post.

Strength said authorities had determined the citizen-soldier had served in Iraq, but he wasn’t sure of the timeline.

He also cautioned that, while investigators are interested in whether Hodges suffered from any service-related mental problems, “we’re not psychiatrists or psychologists.”

The military said Hodges had served on active duty and later in the National Guard at least since 2005, when he was stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. His four years based at the post included a yearlong deployment to Iraq from 2007 to 2008.

According to the Tennessee National Guard, Hodges joined its ranks in February after he had spent about two years in the Georgia Guard.

Neither Tennessee National Guard nor Fort Gordon officials have said what sort of training Hodges was doing at the post in Augusta.

He belonged to the 1st Battalion, 107th Aviation Regiment, based in Smyrna, Tenn., which deployed to Afghanistan in June while Hodges was training at Fort Gordon.

A Memphis television station reported that Hodges and his wife lived in nearby Millington, where neighbors expressed surprise when a reporter told them the news of the shooting.

Hodges also used the address of a house in Martinez. According to traffic citations in Richmond and Columbia counties – one from as recent as August – Hodges listed his address in the 4700 block of Remington Place.

Property records show that the home belongs to a Fred Hodges Jr., but lists his address as Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

Workers at the home Monday afternoon said no one named Hodges currently lives there.