A veteran drug investigator with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office was shot in the face Tuesday night at the climax of an undercover sting in Burke County, authorities said.
The officer, Investigator Greg Meagher, was undergoing surgery late Tuesday after being airlifted to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, according to Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength. The investigator, a 17-year veteran of the sheriff's office, was shot in the jaw and the bullet exited the back of his neck.
"It does not appear to be life-threatening," the sheriff said.
The suspect was shot in the side and was taken to MCG, where he was undergoing surgery. His name and condition were not known at press time.
Sheriff Strength said the officer was among about 10 officers with the agency's Drug Task Force who were conducting a sting off Georgia Highway 24 in western Burke County at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. After the drug transaction, which involved cocaine, occurred, a team of officers came out of a large field to arrest the suspect.
"It appears the suspect fired his weapon, hitting the officer one time in the face," Sheriff Strength said.
Gunfire was exchanged and the suspect was shot. It is unclear who shot him, but the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called to the scene to begin an investigation of the shooting, the sheriff said.
Early this morning, officers armed with flashlights were out walking in the pitch-black field and appeared to be taking measurements. A large area had been cordoned off, including part of Lake Eleanor Road, where the shooting occurred.
Two Burke County officers were on the undercover team and Tuesday night's sting was the culmination of an "extended, on-going investigation."
Investigator Meagher was taken by car to an emergency medical services station in Gough to receive treatment before the helicopter arrived to transport him to MCG.
Dozens of officers and friends of Investigator Meagher gathered at the emergency room at MCG late Tuesday, filling the waiting rooms and spilling outside awaiting word on the surgery.
"He's a damn nice guy," said Sgt. Allan Rollins, with Richmond County Narcotics. "We get into life-and-death situations all the time so anytime one of us gets involved in something it affects us all."
Sgt. Rollins went to pick up Investigator Meagher's wife after the shooting to bring her to the hospital.
The sergeant said he has been friends with the investigator for 25 years, but it wouldn't matter if the officer had started last week because of the brotherhood.
"When something like this happens, the phone doesn't stop ringing until everyone and their brother knows it."