Deputies are required to fill out a Use of Weapon report each time they fire their weapons, whether it’s accidental or on purpose. The information is then reviewed and it is determined whether the shooting was justified or whether an investigation should take place. In some instances, deputies are required to go through remedial training after a shooting, as a precaution. Those involving animals do not require additional training.
Only two instances – both involving human targets – were investigated.
Use of Force reports, which involve hand-to-hand combat, stun guns, pepper spray or any other means of force, are filed separately. According to an analysis of the reports, there were no accidental discharges.
Officers fired their weapons on 16 occasions, killing eight deer, two dogs, one snake and one person. Three dogs and one person narrowly escaped the flying bullets.
According to the reports, deer most often became targets after deputies were called to wrecks involving the animals, which were left injured but alive and suffering. Deputies said the bullets were meant to put the animals out of their misery.
In most cases, dogs were shot at after aggressively approaching the deputies.
In August, a rattlesnake made the list when a deputy responded to the 3800 block of Mike Padgett Highway to see a crowd gathered around the snake wrapped in a pine tree. The deputy tried to get Animal Control officers to respond but was told they would not because of the “dangerous nature of the call.”
Later, Animal Control officers said they would respond but it would take an hour. The officer fired two shots into the snake with a Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun.
In the first deputy-involved shooting of the year, on Feb. 1, Deputy Michael Woodard fired shots that killed 21-year-old Chaz Devell Willaims at Fox Den Apartments, off the 3200 block of Wrightsboro Road.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the case, Williams had previous eluded officers in a chase after they tried to pull him over for traffic violations. Williams then made his way to the apartment, where he reportedly charged at deputies with a knife.
In the last deputy-involved shooting of the year, on Dec. 14, Lt. John Ivey shot at a fleeing armed robber on Deans Bridge Road but missed.
According to the report, Ivey was in uniform and in a sheriff’s office vehicle when he saw a man running from Auto Zone, 2946 Deans Bridge Road.
Ivey did not know that the suspect, Bobby Earl Haynes, had just robbed the store at gunpoint, but when Ivey called out to him, Haynes fired a shot. Ivey returned gunfire but did not injure the suspect.