EASTMAN, Ga. – The weekend shooting death of a police officer in this middle Georgia city does not appear to be a racially motivated ambush, law enforcement officials said today as they prepared to bring the alleged gunman back to the state.
Investigators don’t believe Royheem Deeds laid a trap for Officer Tim Smith, Scott Whitley, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“There’s no evidence pointing to that right now,” Whitley said Monday morning. “We’re not dispelling that (theory), but it doesn’t look that way at the moment.”
Deeds is an African-American; Smith, white – a fact that underscores tensions between police departments and people of color in cities across the country. Deadly shootings targeting police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge last month have law enforcement on edge. Those ambush-style shootings came after police killed two black civilians, one in Minneapolis and the other in Baton Rouge.
The Eastman shooting occurred around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. It took place downtown, hardly a stone’s throw from the police department.
Police, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office and the GBI quickly identified a suspect – Deeds, 24. Officials in Nassau County, Fla., arrested him Monday during a 1:30 a.m. traffic stop. He’d traveled about 140 miles.
Deeds was found hiding in his sister’s trunk during a traffic stop, a Florida sheriff said. Deputies found him after they received a call about a suspicious vehicle, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said during a news conference Monday. They stopped the car as it was heading to Gainesville on U.S. 1 and Teston Lane.
With Deeds was his sister, Franshawn Deeds, 24, of Lumber City; and her boyfriend, Jamil Mitchell, 32, also of Lumber City, police said. They are Telfair County residents, and will be extradited there, police said.
Dodge County deputies plan to bring Royheem Deeds back to Eastman today to face a murder charge. Meantime, they, and every other cop in Dodge County, are wearing badges bearing a black band to commemorate Smith, who would have turned 32 today. All over town, flags are flying at half-staff.