Sheriff says narcotic officers had been watching man for a month

Special
Nestor

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Video from the press conference.

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Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a man while serving arrest warrants Tuesday night – the second fatal shooting by deputies in less than a week.

Three narcotics officers, Philip Hambrick, Jason Saal and Mike Swint, are on desk duty after shooting Michael Nestor, 30, multiple times after he tried to strike one of them with his car, Sheriff Ronnie Strength said in a press conference Wednesday morning.

The sheriff did not release photos of the officers, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize any ongoing cases. According to Sheriff Strength, the events unfolded this way:

The narcotics officers had been watching Mr. Nestor for about a month when they arrived at his home at 1918 Ohio Avenue on Tuesday at about 9 p.m. Wanted on several drug charges, including possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and possession of methadone among others, Mr. Nestor spotted the deputies as they walked toward his driveway. He was sitting in the driver seat of his Oldsmobile when Investigator Saal approached from the rear and Investigators Hambrick and Swint came to his driver-side door with weapons drawn. They ordered him out of the car but Mr. Nestor backed toward Investigator Saal and the officers fired.

Early indications are that Mr. Nestor was struck in the left arm and the neck, Sheriff Strength said. Mr. Nestor’s car traveled about 200 feet where he abandoned the vehicle and collapsed in a nearby yard.

Sheriff Strength said the investigators were not wearing their standard uniforms but did have on badges and department-issued rain jackets. They identified themselves as officers when they approached the car. No dash-cam video is available of the shooting because the officers parked a short distance from Mr. Nestor’s home and approached on foot to avoid alerting the suspect.

GBI investigators were searching his car Wednesday and the sheriff said he did not yet know whether they had found any weapons or narcotics inside. He did confirm that Mr. Nestor did not have a weapon on himself. Sheriff Strength said that he’d heard unconfirmed reports that Mr. Nestor may have been carrying a small amount of an unidentified narcotic.

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections website, Mr. Nestor served just over a year in Dooly State Prison in Unadilla, Ga. from August 2002 to September 2003 on methamphetamine possession charges in Cobb and Gwinnet counties.

Mr. Nestor’s fatal shooting by sheriff deputies is the second such incident in less than a week and the fourth in less than 12 months.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is still looking into last week’s shooting of a 41-year old Terry Ramsey on November 12. Two deputies involved in that shooting, Sylvester Rosier and Chadwick Plueger, returned to active duty Tuesday night.

The sheriff defended his deputies’ actions and said he did not foresee any policy changes on the use of deadly force. Two other fatal shootings in 2008 were deemed justified by the GBI.

“We don’t wake up in the morning saying ‘let’s go out and see if we can get in a shoot-out,’” Sheriff Strength said. “Most of these guys are not thinking about that, they’re thinking about going home at the end of the day also.”

Background information and disciplinary files on the three officers were not immediately available Wednesday but at least one of the them had been previously disciplined. Investigator Hambrick was suspended 10 days for posting a picture of himself with his department-issued Glock handgun on his Myspace page in 2006. A fellow deputy was fired and another suspended as part of the same investigation.

When a reporter from the Chronicle called to find out more information about the deputies and their training, the sheriff’s secretary said he would not be taking anymore calls about the shooting Wednesday afternoon.

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Editor's note: An earlier version incorrectly identified the man killed by deputies as Michael Nester.

RELATED

Police set high bar for using deadly force (Feb. 4, 2009)

RECENT POLICE SHOOTINGS

A look at other shootings involving Richmond County officers:

NOV. 24, 2008 - Investigator Tim Tobias fatally shot Joseph Gooden, 26. The 21-year veteran was working a special-duty assignment at Captain D's restaurant on Wrightsboro Road when Mr. Gooden, armed with a BB gun, robbed the restaurant. Mr. Gooden was killed in the shooting.

DEC. 14, 2008 - Deputies Jose Rivera Ortiz and Michael Hodge were responding to a tip about a man with drugs and weapons in an SUV when they boxed in Justin Leonard Elmore, 23, using their patrol cars in the Cherry Tree neighborhood. Deputies said Mr. Elmore rammed Deputy Hodge's car and drove toward Deputy Ortiz. The deputies fired on Mr. Elmore and he died several days later.

DEC. 25, 2008 - Deputy Scott White shot and wounded Georgette Reid during a hostage situation on Sunny Day Road in Hephzibah. Ms. Reid was fighting with her live-in girlfriend when she struck her in the head with a hammer and took her 4-year-old son hostage with a knife. As Deputy White entered the room, he shot Ms. Reid in the shoulder and pulled the boy away.

NOV. 12, 2009 - An Augusta man free on bond awaiting a murder trial was killed by Richmond County Sheriff's deputies Thursday when he refused to put down the knife he held to his wife's throat. Police said Terry Ramsey, 41, was shot when deputies responding to a phone call from his 14-year-old son, found him threatening his estranged wife Tameka Ramsey. He died at 4:49 a.m. at Medical College of Georgia Hospital. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting at 814 Metcalf St., and both deputies -- Chadwick Plueger and Sylvester Rosier -- have been placed on desk duty.

-- From staff reports

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

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