Shooting triggers chaos

People hurled rocks and bottles at Richmond County sheriff's deputies Sunday after word spread that police had shot a fleeing suspect near the Cherry Tree Crossing housing project off 15th Street.

Many in the loud, angry crowd of perhaps 200 people said the suspect had been killed, but a Richmond County coroner said at 11:30 p.m. that his office had not been notified.

Augusta Commissioner Corey Johnson, whose district includes the housing project, said he had been told the man was hospitalized in critical condition. Officials would not confirm his name or identify the hospital.

"They don't think he's gonna make it," Mr. Johnson said.

Extra deputies were called in to handle crowd control, and gunfire was heard at the scene after nightfall.

"That's not the answer," Mr. Johnson said. "The riot is not the answer. It's not gonna help get to the bottom of the situation."

Several fires were set in large trash bins around the community, and fire department officials advised their units to leave them alone to burn out.

Sheriff's Lt. Scott Peebles said the incident on Carver Drive near the 15th Street intersection began at 4:21 p.m. and involved two sheriff's officers. He said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had taken over the case, and he referred questions to the agency.

In an interview at the Sheriff's Office, GBI Agent Pat Morgan said early Sunday evening that he had reviewed the scene and was preparing to interview witnesses.

"This is my first time working a shooting in Richmond County like that," he said when asked about the crowd.

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength is expected to hold a briefing today, Lt. Peebles said.

Mr. Johnson, the district's commissioner, said Sunday night that he was told the Sheriff's Office got a tip that a stolen black SUV was in the area, carrying drugs and guns. Police found the Chevrolet and boxed it in, parking one police car in front and one behind.

Mr. Johnson said he was told the driver tried to escape, backing into the car behind him and ramming the one in front. The driver was shot while apparently trying to ram the squad car in front, Mr. Johnson said.

After the shooting, witnesses said the suspect's car continued to go down the street, stopping when it ran into a gate near a tree.

Mr. Johnson said that when the driver made the choice to ram police cars, he turned his vehicle into a weapon, giving police justification to defend themselves.

"It's just an unfortunate situation," Mr. Johnson said. "I hate that a man got shot. I hate that it happened the way it did," he said.

Staff writers Adam Folk and Preston Sparks contributed to this story.

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