Originally created 06/03/04

Officer is recovering from bullet



A Richmond County sheriff's investigator shot during a drug bust in Burke County was recovering from his injuries at a local hospital Wednesday. The man accused of shooting him, wounded in the same incident, remained in the same hospital.

Investigator Greg Meagher, a 19-year veteran of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, was in critical condition at Medical College of Georgia Hospital on Wednesday, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said.

Authorities accuse Tory Knight, 27, of Wadley, Ga., of shooting the investigator in the jaw.

Danielle Wong, an MCG spokeswoman, said her facility would not release information about either man's condition.

Sheriff Strength said Investigator Meagher's injuries were not life-threatening, although he was suffering swelling in his face.

The incident took place Tuesday night during an operation involving a drug task force with the Drug Enforcement Administration near Gough in Burke County.

Mr. Knight also was shot during the drug bust, which involved the sale of cocaine, Sheriff Strength said. The sheriff would not say who shot Mr. Knight, as the matter is still under investigation by his agency and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Mike Seigler, the special agent in charge of the GBI's Thomson office, said officials had an "indication" of who shot Mr. Knight, but would not say whom.

The sheriff confirmed that more than $20,000 was seized from Mr. Knight during the bust.

Sheriff Strength said Mr. Knight had not been charged and that there are several matters that must be resolved before charges can be filed.

First, the incident happened in Burke County, so a question remains of which county will file charges, Sheriff Strength said.

Second, Investigator Meagher was with federal drug investigators, the sheriff said, and the fact that he was injured during a federal investigation could have legal implications under the federal court system.

Sheriff Strength said District Attorney Danny Craig and the U.S. attorney's office must resolve the question of federal or state jurisdiction.

Mr. Craig said his office would meet with federal prosecutors as soon as investigative reports are made ready.

Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey said the area where the drug bust and shooting occurred was not a known drug area, but was simply a place where Mr. Knight agreed to meet.

Sheriff Coursey said his deputies, who were assigned along with Investigator Meagher as part of the drug task force, were not hurt.

"Thank God it wasn't any worse for Meagher," he said.

State records show Mr. Knight was on parole at the time of the shooting for selling cocaine and had been on parole since 1999.

Heather Hedrick, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, said Mr. Knight was convicted in 1993 of cocaine possession and sentenced to probation.

She said that a year later, his probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to 15 years on a charge of selling cocaine.

Ms. Hedrick said Mr. Knight was briefly granted parole in 1995, but it was revoked after he did not gain employment, a requirement of parole.

"The parole board unfortunately doesn't have a crystal ball," Ms. Hedrick said, "and I wish in this case, we would."

She said officials have started the process to revoke Mr. Knight's parole, regardless of what kind of charges local authorities file.

Meanwhile, the sheriff and colleagues have praised Investigator Meagher, and his personnel records reflect those praises.

Records in the investigator's personnel file obtained by The Augusta Chronicle under the Georgia Open Records Act include many letters of commendation for Investigator Meagher.

Then-Deputy Meagher helped a colleague chase down motor vehicle thieves in 1985 and helped rush a pregnant woman from a south Augusta restaurant to University Hospital as she went into labor, records show.

Investigator Meagher also was commended for assisting the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice during a 1996 undercover drug investigation of a deputy U.S. marshal, a letter states.

In 2000, officials at the Savannah River Technology Center commended Investigator Meagher and other colleagues in helping a U.S. Department of Justice employee observe the use of a surveillance camera to make arrests in a drug trafficking area.

Records show that Investigator Meagher went to the Criminal Investigation Division in 1989. He started with the sheriff's office in 1984.

This is not the first time Investigator Meagher has been in danger during his law enforcement career because of a shootout.

According to a 1987 article in The Chronicle, then-Deputy Meagher was involved in the pursuit of a murder suspect along with two other deputies.

The suspect, Jeffrey Brantley, stopped his truck on a south Richmond County road, got out and fired an automatic pistol at the deputies, the article states.

According to the report, no deputies were hurt in the shootout.

Nor is Investigator Meagher the first Richmond County officer to be shot in the line of duty. Investigator Dan Carrier, a violent crimes investigator in the sheriff's Criminal Investigation Division, was shot in the leg in November 2002 while looking for a shooting suspect on Fenwick Street.

Narcotics Investigator James Tredore was shot in July 2001 in his lower right abdomen after a drug-raid suspect fired at him.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.