About 500 Richmond County sheriff’s employees have guns. Last year, 26 pulled the trigger while on duty.
Most of their targets were animals.
According to 2011’s Use of Weapon reports, deputies pulled a weapon and fired in 23 incidents during the year. Sixteen cases involved animals.
Deputies were often called for vicious dogs or injured animals that had been hit on the road. Some of the bullets were used to put the animals down, and others were fired to scare them until Animal Control could arrive.
That April, a deputy shot a goat that had been attacked by dogs. At Animal Control’s request, the deputy fired one round into the head of the goat, which had a detached lower jaw and numerous head injuries.
Last year, deputies shot at 12 dogs, three deer, one goat, one vehicle and six suspects.
All of the suspects pulled weapons on officers before shots were fired.
David Dawkins, 24, died after being shot by a deputy Feb. 10, less than 20 days after his release from prison.
Deputy Bill Walker had pulled over a stolen vehicle and was trying to make an arrest when Dawkins pulled a pistol and pointed it at the deputy. Walker fired three shots.
After firing a weapon, all employees are required to file the Use of Weapon report, which goes to internal affairs for review.
Lt. Pat Young said the shooter in any incident that does not involve an animal must go through remedial firearm training as a precaution.
In October, four officers were involved in a shooting after a man threatened to kill himself with a bomb at his home on Scenic Drive. Officers fired several shots to disable the man’s vehicle.
Col. Gary Powell said an officer’s judgment is rarely an issue in gun incidents.
“They’re well-trained,” he said.
No accidental discharges of guns were recorded in 2011.
In 2010, four of the 24 Use of Weapon reports involved accidental discharges.