Originally created 08/27/99

Man killed in shootout with security officer

Erik Voldness was looking forward to having his dad take him shopping for a new Hot Wheels to celebrate his third birthday.

But instead, his dad, Charles Voldness Jr., 24, is recovering from surgery to remove a 9mm bullet from his head.

While working as a security officer at Bryant's Discount Beverage Center at midnight, Mr. Voldness got into a shootout with an armed robber, who was shot three times, at least once in the abdomen. Mr. Voldness was shot once in the head.

The suspect, later identified as Dexter Wooden, 25, stormed into the East Buena Vista Avenue store, brandished a 9mm pistol and ordered to the floor the store clerk and patrons playing video poker, said T. Lee Wetherington, director of the North Augusta Department of Public Safety.

Within seconds, the shootout occurred but officials don't know who fired first. Mr. Voldness took a bullet that first passed through a money machine he was crouched behind. Mr. Wooden ran from the store, climbing a fence behind the store and collapsing on the other side.

Bloodhounds from South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division found Mr. Wooden's body about two hours after the shooting with the pistol still clenched in his hand and a black and white bandana covering part of his face, police said.

While family members of Mr. Wooden made funeral arrangements, Mr. Voldness' family staked out his room in the Shock Trauma unit at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where he was in fair condition later Thursday.

"These kinds of things happen to other people," said his wife, Paula Voldness. "I was always worried about the danger."

The couple has a 7-year-old daughter, Megan, and Erik, who will be 3 on Sunday. Also gathered at his bedside were his parents and two brothers.

Because his family was growing with two young children, Mr. Voldness was concerned about his future and was looking to get out of law enforcement altogether, said his dad, Chuck Voldness.

"He is such a sensitive guy, I never would have thought that he would've been able to fire at somebody," he said. "I'm surprised he did."

After surgery early in the morning and breathing with the help of a respirator most of the day, Mr. Voldness awakened in the afternoon and started to breathe on his own. He told his father he remembered the shooting.

"I just told him that guy didn't get away," the elder Mr. Voldness said. "I didn't want to tell him he had killed him. That would devastate him."

Mr. Voldness' shooting was the first one for a Liberty Security officer, said office administrator Lisa Vause.

"He did exactly what he was supposed to do," she said. "He took a tactical position, assessed the situation and he reacted. You can never be too prepared. Thank God it paid off."

The fatal shooting isn't the first for a victim trying to defend himself.

Over the July Fourth weekend, Thomas Shim, owner of Yeong's Grocery in Augusta, shot and killed Anthony Boyd, 36, a gunman trying to rob his store. Mr. Yeong was not charged in the attack and was found to have acted in self-defense.

Jake Ergle's story is different.

A security officer for Sizemore Security, Mr. Ergle was standing watch outside Bassett Furniture on Augusta West Parkway when he was hit on the head with a concrete block in March 1998. He then was beaten with his night stick, stuffed into the trunk of his car and driven to Hilton Head Island, S.C., where he escaped and called for help.

Joshua Wilborn, 18, had escaped from Charter Augusta Behavioral Health System in Augusta. He was charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault in the attack, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

However, convenience store robberies are on the decline throughout the country, said Jim Tudor, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores.

"The No. 1 reason the robber is there is for money. They go to where the money is," Mr. Tudor said. But convenience stores have been encouraged to install drop safes to deposit large bills or to not accept any bill over $20.

Thieves are more drawn to fast-food restaurants, he said.

But the decrease in incidents is no consolation to Paula Voldness, who said her husband will never work again in security.

"He's out of it for good. There's no question," she said.

Meghan Gourley covers crime for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3227 or mgourley@augustachronicle.com.


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