Agencies joined forces to make arrest in chase

There were no shootouts last week when police arrested an accused bank robber on Interstate 20 in McDuffie County.

No car wrecks either, despite rush-hour traffic and pursuit speeds of more than 80 mph.

Authorities credit their success to coordinated communication after the robbery of the Bank of America branch on Washington Road.

Still, they say, it wasn't easy.

"It was a logistical nightmare," said Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Scott Gay, one of several who helped coordinate the chase that involved the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, the McDuffie County Sheriff's Office, the Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Each agency used handheld radios to coordinate its officers. Cell phones and emergency dispatchers were used to communicate among agencies.

Because of their radio frequencies, Richmond County deputies are not able to communicate directly with neighboring agencies on an interstate channel, Lt. Gay said.

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said his department can communicate with the Georgia State Patrol.

Solving such technological challenges is at the heart of a statewide interoperable communications system. However, it has yet to be implemented in Richmond County.

Despite technical differences, authorities said they were delighted with the coordination.

Sheriff's Lt. Scott Peebles said his department had practiced a similar scenario in the past, but he was surprised at how the operation came together.

"We practiced it with just our agency and didn't get it that smooth," he said.

Lt. Gay said authorities were initially unsure what type of car the suspect was driving, but they did have a description of him and used that to set up deputies along the roadway as spotters. Point men were assigned to each department and were using their mobile telephones to coordinate with their counterparts, he said.

"We were having to visually inspect each car as they passed by," Lt. Gay said. "We had people on both sides of the road and people that matched the description (of the suspect) were pulled over."

With a Georgia State Patrol helicopter hovering above, authorities eventually spotted Alex Rodger III and stopped his car at a roadblock. Cash and a gun were found in the vehicle, and he was arrested on armed robbery and gun charges.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.