Crime & Courts

Richmond Co. | Columbia Co. | Aiken Co. |

Richmond County deputy relives struggle with suspect

'The last sound an officer wants to hear'

  • Follow Crime & courts

911 dispatchers use three tones to alert officers across Richmond County. Only one of those tones sends chills down deputies’ spines.

Back | Next
Deputy Burt Gates describes a fight he got into while trying to make an arrest off Gordon Highway. Gates radioed dispatch, which responded with a rarely used special distress signal that called all cars to the scene.  ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
Deputy Burt Gates describes a fight he got into while trying to make an arrest off Gordon Highway. Gates radioed dispatch, which responded with a rarely used special distress signal that called all cars to the scene.

“It is absolutely the last sound an officer ever wants to hear,” Deputy Burt Gates said. “It’s scary. Really, really scary.”

That tone comes right after an officer has called the signal for “officer needs help.” It is a rare call, and one no one in the department takes lightly. It is only used as a last resort, when an officer absolutely cannot handle a situation on his own.

On Dec. 16, at 11:37 a.m., one such call went out.

Gates was working the traffic radar just past Fort Gordon’s Gate 1 when a Chevrolet truck flew by him going 71 mph in a 55-mph zone.

Gates turned his lights on and pulled the truck over a little before Craig Sims Parkway. As he got out and walked toward the driver, he immediately noticed the man behind the wheel was sweating profusely even though it was cool out. When he passed the back tires, a strong scent of marijuana hit him.

On approaching the driver – Jason Michael Covington, 32 – Gates immediately saw a small pipe in Covington’s lap. Gates asked for it, and Covington reluctantly handed it over.

Gates, who has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, noticed Covington’s eyes were bloodshot and his pupils were small as pinpoints. He was also grinding his teeth incessantly.

Gates could see Covington start to get nervous. He asked Covington whether he had any other drug paraphernalia in the car. After hesitating, Covington handed him a partial joint from the ash tray. At this point, Gates was sure there was more in the truck, so he asked whether he could take a look. Covington agreed.

Gates could see Covington was growing more nervous. He asked Covington to get out and stood him by the hood of his patrol car. Gates said the law is that even after a person has consented to let an officer search a car, the person still has the right to take the consent back at any point. So, to cover his bases, Gates left Covington in a position where he could speak to him in case that happened.

Gates returned to the truck, where he found a camera case with a large amount of marijuana and two pill bottles with an unknown substance.

Gates called for another car because he knew he was going to arrest Cov­ing­ton, and he had an inkling Cov­ing­ton was not going to like the idea.

As Gates reached for Covington’s arm, he shoved Gates and took off into the ditch that lined the highway. Gates caught him in the ditch. As they fought, Gates was able to get out the signal on the radio for “fight in progress.”

Covington was so sweaty that he kept slipping out of Gates’ grip. Covington broke away and ran down the asphalt toward Craig Sims Parkway. Gates decided to cut him off with his patrol car. As soon as Gates got in front of Coving­ton, the man sprinted up the steep hill on the other side of the ditch.

Gates bolted from his car and was on Covington’s heels up the hill, catching him at the top. At this point, it was clear to Gates that Covington was not going to calm down, and Gates was faced with a situation he did not want to ever have to be in. In hand-to-hand combat, there is always a chance the officer’s gun could be involved. Gates was using all his energy trying to keep Covington subdued but far enough away so as to not get a hold of his weapon.

It was time to get backup.

Gates sent out the signal for “officer needs help.” Within seconds, dispatch cleared all channels and sent out the tone that makes every officer’s heart stop.

Every deputy in Richmond County with a radio on heard that tone. All the dispatcher had was Gates’ last location and transmission, which had been the fight signal. He had said at one point he was up the hill from his car.

Within seconds, all sheriff’s cars were on their way, including Car 1, Sheriff Ronnie Strength.

Because of Gates’ location, it took almost 4½ minutes for backup to arrive. By that time, he had managed to pin Covington so he could not get to Gates’ weapon. But both men were exhausted.

When two officers appeared, Gates could not have been more relieved.

When the narcotics investigator arrived, Gates showed him the camera case with more than 15 grams of marijuana and more than 5 grams of methamphetamine.

Covington was charged with intent to distribute for both drugs, DUI, speeding and felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer. He remains in the Richmond County jail on a $1,540 bond and a “hold subject do not release,” according to the county’s Web site. Neither he nor Gates was seriously injured.

Gates received a subpoena Friday for Covington’s court date, when he will have to explain the obstruction charge to the judge.

Reflecting on the experience, Gates is sure he did what he had to do.

“You can armchair quarterback all your decisions, but it will drive you crazy,” Gates he said. “He had already made the decision to fight. There wasn’t anything I could have done to change that.”

Sending out the signal that trumps all others also is something Gates dreads.

“That is the scariest call we have,” he said. “And it’s the last thing you ever want to have to do.”

Comments (21) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
wondersnevercease
9218
Points
wondersnevercease 01/08/12 - 05:36 pm
0
0
Thank you Officer
Unpublished

Thank you Officer Gates.............................

Willow Bailey
20619
Points
Willow Bailey 01/08/12 - 06:47 pm
0
0
$1540, hardly seems

$1540, hardly seems sufficient as guarantee for showing up for court. Why so cheap?

Congratulations Officer Gates, great arrest. Glad you are safe.

BlackandBlue
1
Points
BlackandBlue 01/08/12 - 07:01 pm
0
0
Good job Gates. I have

Good job Gates. I have worked with Gates before and he is an upstanding guy. He also is not the biggest guy but sounds like he held is on on this one :). Anyways I would like to point out an error in the article. The part about Covington gave him consent thus allowing to search the car but then went on to say Covington could have refused the search at any time. That is true, except for Gates smelled the odor of marijuana. That is enough probable cause at the point to search the car, with or without Covington's permission. Especially when Covington gave him some marijuana. Covington would not have the luxury to refuse the search at the point. Just wanted to point that out so people reading this article wouldnt try to play street side lawyer if this were to ever happen to them, and they happen to be smokin' a fatty.

Asitisinaug
4
Points
Asitisinaug 01/08/12 - 07:16 pm
0
0
Great Job Deputy Gates, we

Great Job Deputy Gates, we are all glad you walked away without injury.

Covington remains in Richmond County jail with a $1,540 bond, according to the county’s Web site. Neither he nor Gates was seriously injured in the altercation.

Augusta Chronicle, PLEASE tell me this is an error. Otherwise, please advise us who set this pathetic bond for a drug dealing DUI driving speeder who also assulted one of Richmond County's Finest. Felony Obstruction should result in "no bond" charges as we can no longer continue to tollerate people fighting our deputies.

Riverman1
120652
Points
Riverman1 01/08/12 - 07:25 pm
0
0
I had a bigger bond than that

I had a bigger bond than that for cheating on my income taxes.

charliemanson
1
Points
charliemanson 01/08/12 - 07:32 pm
0
0
Glad the officer didn't get

Glad the officer didn't get injured. Just imagine a female officer having to tussle with someone like Covington.

harley_52
32787
Points
harley_52 01/08/12 - 07:46 pm
0
0
That's why they make tasers

That's why they make tasers and pistols, isn't it?

Asitisinaug
4
Points
Asitisinaug 01/08/12 - 08:27 pm
0
0
Harley, most area departments

Harley, most area departments have not provided tasers for deputies as the commissioners have far more important needs than deputy safety. As for the gun being used, it had better be a very last resort on an unarmed person or be prepared for major backlash from your department, the media, public, etc. as well as possible termination and legal issues - things have really changed to protect criminals instead of LEO's.

hope7
0
Points
hope7 01/08/12 - 08:33 pm
0
0
I am grateful for Officer

I am grateful for Officer Gates and all the brave men and women of our police departments. Thank you and your families for your selfless service .

Patty-P
3521
Points
Patty-P 01/08/12 - 08:33 pm
0
0
Just legalize drugs....will

Just legalize drugs....will make everything easier...right?

Connor Threlkeld
1339
Points
Connor Threlkeld 01/08/12 - 09:25 pm
0
0
The story was updated at 6:36

The story was updated at 6:36 p.m. to reflect a second look at the bond and a phone call to the sheriff's office. The bond numbers are cited based on data provided by the Richmond County jail website. The bond number above is likely only based on charges already filed in the case, it may grow. But “hold subject do not release” is also on his record, so he cannot leave jail even if he did come up with bail.

Sargebaby
4694
Points
Sargebaby 01/08/12 - 10:01 pm
0
0
Great job, Officer Gates!

Great job, Officer Gates! Happy you were able to go home after your shift!

Asitisinaug
4
Points
Asitisinaug 01/08/12 - 10:08 pm
0
0
Connor, thank you very much

Connor, thank you very much for your follow up and undated information, especially on a Sunday. We greatly appreciate the information and I am glad to hear he has a DNR on his file.

april65
12
Points
april65 01/09/12 - 07:52 am
0
0
$1540 bond is for DUI &

$1540 bond is for DUI & Speeding.. He has a $0 .00 bond for each charge of Possession w/ intent to distribute marijuana, meth, obstruction in addition to the Hold Subject. So four out of the seven charges have no bond period. Enjoy your stay!

lifelongresident
1329
Points
lifelongresident 01/09/12 - 09:07 am
0
0
thank goodness you are ok
Unpublished

thank goodness you are ok deouty gates, godspeed take care and may your aim be true and keep your powder dry

Abbynoll
282
Points
Abbynoll 01/09/12 - 09:07 am
0
0
Deputy Gates is indeed one of

Deputy Gates is indeed one of our finest, and I can say that because I know him personally. I am very proud of our RCSO. Knowing they are out there putting their lives on the line and arresting these chuckleheads is what makes me want to keep doing the job I do. If they can potentially sacrifice so much, then who am I to complain about the job I have to do. He may not be the biggest Deputy we have, and he's got a gentle manner about him, but obviously he can hold his own. I'd definitely want him on my side and not against me. :-) I'm glad to see an article highlighting some good about a Deputy. They deserve far more respect than they're given.

seenitB4
128544
Points
seenitB4 01/09/12 - 09:18 am
0
0
Thankyou abby.....& many

Thankyou abby.....& many thanks to Deputy Gates.....so glad you walked away from this.

harley_52
32787
Points
harley_52 01/09/12 - 11:18 am
0
0
I'm wondering why didn't he

I'm wondering why didn't he use a taser and get it over with early on? I may sound like a monday morning quarterback here, but it seems like this Officer could have substantially simplified this arrest and mitigated a great deal of danger if he'd just zapped the guy when he began resisting.

Edit...I see now that Deputies don't have tasers. All I can say is UNBELIEVABLE. They should be standard issue for every officer. Expecting officers to go hand to hand with these thugs is ludicrous and DANGEROUS.

beboisme
425
Points
beboisme 01/09/12 - 10:44 am
0
0
It's not just the danger of

It's not just the danger of lethal weapons, guns,knives etc... Deputies have to contend with, but the filth from people. Imagine handling a drunk who vomits all over you! The blood, the head-lice, the bed-bugs, and sorry to say, the deaths of victims from tragic events. This is not a pretty picture to say the least, but it does provide a small glimpse of what a Deputy is subjected to on a daily bases. So here they are showing up for work every night and day to be spit on,lied to and fought with to maintain a safe environment for all of us to live in. What is it that motivates these public servants to continue to serve and protect us? We know it's not the salaries they bring home. It's not the shiny car, or the silver badge. It's a varity of reason they are commited to. Like taking an infant and siblings from a bug infested house who are hungery and ingnored and providing safe and loving arms. Deputies usually keep stuffed animals and toys in the trunk of their cars for kids who just can't be consoled any other way. To be a Deputy is far more than just looking the part, it is a desire to do the best in every situation put before them. It has to come from the depths of a heart belonging to God himself. With a gracious and humble heart I thank all of you who serve to protect and pray in the name of Jesus that God cover you as you go about your day. And I am not to proud to ask, I pray for an abundant increase in each of your lives, in every aspect. May God's love and peace be with all of you, and may you all continue to walk with the love that God has placed in your hearts.

kiwiinamerica
1115
Points
kiwiinamerica 01/09/12 - 10:50 am
0
0
"...........sweating
Unpublished

"...........sweating profusely........"

Yep, that's meth alright.

kiwiinamerica
1115
Points
kiwiinamerica 01/09/12 - 11:01 am
0
0
Ahem.............this is
Unpublished

Ahem.............this is interesting. I just did a quick search on the perp.

If you click here it will take you to the site "Look Who Got Busted". At the link, is a mugshot taken of the perp when he was busted on September 30, 2011. That's right, just ten weeks before the incident described in the article.

And what was he busted for? Yep...........you guessed it. "Possession of marijuana, possession of meth". And what else.....oh yeah......."Hold subject do not release".

Ten weeks later, he's out 'rasslin' with Deputy Gates in a ditch by Gordon Highway.

Bonk
8
Points
Bonk 01/09/12 - 12:10 pm
0
0
I live in Richmond County now

I live in Richmond County now and I moved here from Columbia County a few years ago. I have lived in a few places around the country and I must say that the deputies here are absolutely the best. Very little pay and they put their lives on the line every day for me and you. I spent the entire month of December visiting family in California and was away from my apartment. But I never worried about my home or possesions. Why? Because a couple of Augusta's finest live here in my complex. Thank you very much men (and women)!

devgru1
0
Points
devgru1 01/09/12 - 05:01 pm
0
0
Legalizing drugs wouldn't

Legalizing drugs wouldn't have prevented this. There was still an idiot behind the wheel speeding and he was under the influence. If everything he had used was legal, he would have still been arrested and put up a fight. Good humor though Pattie P....

familyof4
0
Points
familyof4 01/16/12 - 11:50 am
0
0
I have gone back and forth

I have gone back and forth debating if I should post my comment relating to this article or if I should just leave well enough alone... I decided to post. Jason Covington is my husband. While I sympathize with the RCSO for my husbands decisions and actions, I do question some of the deputies actions. 1. According to this article, my husband fought the deputy in a ditch in front of his patrol car. Why is there no dash camera video showing this? 2. According to this article, the deputy called for back up but by the time they arrived, he had Jason in custody already. Tell me why did five officers attack him spraying two full bottles of pepper spray on him. 3. This article gives the impression he tried to get the deputy's weapon. I know without a shadow of a doubt that is far from true. Deputy Gates may have been concerned that he might try, but Jason would never shoot anyone, especially police officers.

Jason & I were involved in an accident where our vehicle flipped and caused him to break the L1 vertebrae in his back. He asked the deputy not to cuff his hands from behind b/c of that injury. There was no reason for him to run and I assure you he is paying for it now, but had he been cuffed in the front, none of this would have happened.

InChristLove
22491
Points
InChristLove 01/16/12 - 12:12 pm
0
0
Mrs. Covington, I’m sure

Mrs. Covington, I’m sure commenting was a difficult decision and there will always be questions as to why choices were made. I can not explain about the dash camera video but I would assume if they were in a ditch (possible behind the patrol car, since your husband was standing by the patrol car while his was being searched), it is possible the incident took place out of view of the camera. Your next question is why did 5 officers attack him with pepper spray when Deputy Gates already had your husband in custody. I believe if you will review the article, it states that in an exhausted state, Deputy Gates had your husband pinned when the other officers arrived, not that he had him in custody. I was not there so I can only speculate, but evidently some action was taken for Deputy Gates to be so concerned about the taking of his firearm and for the use of pepper spray. When a suspect is under the influence of drugs, runs from the police, fights detainment, and then ask the deputy to handcuff him in the front, do you honestly think they are going to do this. Their safety is on the line and they want to go home to their families. Evidently running and fighting with law enforcement wasn’t hindered due to the back injury. I’m sure you care about your husband and it is difficult not to question certain actions but maybe if your husband had not been under the influence of drugs, all these problems would have never occurred in the first place. I truly hope all works out for you.

Back to Top
loading...
Search Augusta jobs