Sheriff asks for calm; GBI won't discuss investigation until done

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength asked the community this morning to hold off passing judgment on two deputies who shot and critically injured a man Sunday afternoon, an incident that ignited the Cherry Tree Crossing housing project and led to a large mob starting fires and throwing objects at officers.

He said he has reviewed a dashboard video of the shooting and a very preliminary review suggests the officers were justified, but the GBI is investigating the matter to determine conclusively is the two acted properly, the sheriff said during a morning news conference.

The deputies were responding to a tip about a man with drugs and weapons in an SUV when they boxed in Justin Leonard Elmore, 23, Sheriff Strength said. As the deputy in front approached, Mr. Elmore put his SUV in reverse, rammed the deputy's car behind him and proceeded to drive toward the deputy in front of him.

It was at this time that the two deputies fired into the SUV, the sheriff said. It's too early to say how many shots were fired.

The SUV hasn't been searched, but it will once the GBI obtains a search warrant, Sheriff Strength said. Drugs and ammunition can be seen inside.

Mr. Strength would not name the deputies involved, but said neither have been involved with an officer-related shooting previously. Both have been assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the investigation.

Although he wouldn't give specifics, the sheriff said Mr. Elmore has an extensive criminal history.

Eight extra deputies have been assigned to the Cherry Tree Crossing area as added security for the time being, he said.

This afternoon, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation released this statement"

"The GBI is continuing an independent investigation into the shooting incident last Sunday evening at Carver Drive and 15th street involving Richmond County Sheriff's Office Deputies. ... Video recordings have been recovered from the dash cameras from the patrol cars driven by the deputies involved in the incident and have been reviewed by the GBI Agents conducting the investigation. These videos have been entered into the GBI case as evidence and will be presented to District Attorney Ashley Wright upon completion of the investigation.

"As with all GBI investigations, the details of the investigation and any evidence can not released to the public until after the case has been closed."

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