Georgette Reid, the woman charged in the crime and shot by police during a rescue attempt, remained at Medical College of Georgia Hospital on Monday.
Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said the veteran SWAT member who shot Ms. Reid had no choice because she was slicing the boy's throat as officers were bursting through a barricaded door.
"We're just happy as hell knowing the boy is alive because we thought he wouldn't be," Lt. Scott Peebles said.
According to Sheriff Strength, Ms. Reid stabbed Latoya Lewis in the head and arm with a butcher knife Thursday when Ms. Lewis tried to break off their romantic relationship. Ms. Lewis called police and escaped from the Sunny Day Drive home with Ms. Reid's 14-year-old daughter.
Ms. Lewis, a military intelligence officer stationed at Fort Gordon, told deputies that she was unable to get her son out of the house and feared that his life was in danger, the sheriff said. Ms. Reid barricaded herself in a back room and wouldn't let deputies inside.
"That thing soured from the get-go," Sheriff Strength said.
Deputies tried to negotiate with Ms. Reid, but it became clear that she was going to harm the child, he said. As SWAT team officers detonated two diversionary grenades behind the house, others barged in from the front.
Ms. Reid was using the boy as a shield, but Deputy Scott White was able to shoot her once in the upper chest and rescue the child, Sheriff Strength said.
SWAT members train regularly and firing their weapons becomes almost automatic when necessary, Lt. Peebles said, but they prefer to talk someone into giving up.
He said there's a misconception fostered by Hollywood that SWAT teams can't wait to shoot somebody, but that isn't true.
"All the tactics we employ are designed to save lives, and that includes the life of the hostage-taker," Lt. Peebles said. "That's what we train to do."
Lt. Peebles said he couldn't put into words the pressure SWAT was under Thursday and the agony of knowing that a child's life could depend on their actions.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.