Atlanta officer ‘doing well’ after high-rise shooting, chief says

Atlanta police officers Khuong Thai (left) and Joshua Lovreta were met by gunfire as they stepped out of the elevator on the eighth floor. Thai was struck twice.

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

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Atlanta police officers Khuong Thai (left) and Joshua Lovreta were met by gunfire as they stepped out of the elevator on the eighth floor. Thai was struck twice.

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Officer shot in shoulder, face before returning fire

Authorities on Thursday released the names of the officer shot twice Wednesday inside an Atlanta apartment building and the gunman killed when police returned fire.

Two officers were “ambushed” about 1 p.m. while investigating a shooting on the eighth floor of the Solace on Peachtree apartments, a 16-story building about a block from the famed Fox Theatre.

Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant identified the wounded officer as Khuong Thai, who joined the department in October 2019. Thai was shot twice as he and Officer Joshua Lovreta stepped out of the elevator, authorities said. One bullet struck his shoulder and the other hit him in the face.

“Upon exiting the elevator, our officers were fired upon,” Bryant said. “They were able to return fire, killing the suspect at that time.”

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Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant said the officer shot twice Wednesday afternoon remains hospitalized, but is doing well. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant said the officer shot twice Wednesday afternoon remains hospitalized, but is doing well.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

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Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant said the officer shot twice Wednesday afternoon remains hospitalized, but is doing well. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

The man killed by police was identified Thursday morning as Joseph Lee Humbles, 29, of Atlanta. Investigators determined that Humbles shot another man prior to the officers’ arrival, according to the GBI, which is investigating the police shooting. That victim was taken to a hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening.

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The officers responded to the apartment building after a woman called 911 and reported hearing two shots on her floor followed by screams, according to an audio recording released Wednesday.

“I just heard two gunshots in the hallway,” the woman told dispatchers. “There is someone screaming. Floor eight.”

The caller said it sounded like the gunshots were fired near the stairwell just outside her door, but wasn’t able to provide any additional details because she stayed inside her unit.

The two officers who arrived at the scene were met with gunfire as soon as the elevator doors opened, according to police. Authorities have not said if Humbles lived at the apartment building or what prompted the initial shooting on the eighth floor.

Humbles had been arrested in Atlanta in February 2017 after officers stopped a car he was riding in near Howell Mill Road and discovered several grams of marijuana in his backpack, records show. Bryant said the “minor drug violation” appeared to be Humbles’ only previous charge in Atlanta.

The chief said Thai remains in the hospital, but is in good spirits after Wednesday’s shooting.

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Khuong Thai

Credit: Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council

Khuong Thai

Credit: Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council

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Khuong Thai

Credit: Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council

Credit: Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council

“The officer that received injuries is in stable condition at Grady hospital and he’s doing well,” Bryant said. “He is surrounded by his family.”

A chaotic scene unfolded along Peachtree Street as Atlanta police and law enforcement from surrounding jurisdictions responded to Wednesday’s “officer down” call. Witnesses looked on from apartment windows as officers picked up their wounded colleague and ran down Peachtree Street to a waiting vehicle.

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Midtown residents looked on from their apartment windows as police flooded Peachtree Street following the officer's shooting.

Credit: Contributed

Midtown residents looked on from their apartment windows as police flooded Peachtree Street following the officer's shooting.

Credit: Contributed

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Midtown residents looked on from their apartment windows as police flooded Peachtree Street following the officer's shooting.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Alex Kaplan said he went downstairs to get his mail shortly after 1 p.m. when someone grabbed him and pulled him into the apartment’s leasing office. He works as a research manager for a real estate company and has lived in the building more than four years. He had never seen anything like the police response to the officer being shot, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I was just trying to get my mail and ended up in the back of the leasing office for four hours,” Kaplan said. “I didn’t even know there was anything going on. I was in there from about 1:15 to 5:30 p.m.”

Kaplan said police used the leasing office as a makeshift command center as SWAT officers went floor to floor making sure the building was clear. He even recognized some of the detectives from the popular crime series “The First 48.”

“They were in there talking strategy,” he said. “It was kind of interesting to overhear.”

He described his building as a nice place to live and called it “the last affordable place in Midtown.”

“The units are kind of small and the kitchens are tiny, but everything else in the area is way more expensive,” said Kaplan, who pays less than $1,000 a month for his one-bedroom.

Records show Atlanta officers responded to at least 212 calls at the Solace on Peachtree since May 2020, the majority of which appeared to be thefts from parked cars.

At a news conference Thursday, Bryant praised APD’s response to the police shooting and thanked the officers from surrounding agencies who rushed to the scene to help.

“This is one of the most heroic events I’ve seen in the police department and I’ve seen many,” said Bryant, describing how officers pulled Thai out of the elevator before carrying him from the building. “These officers clearly did not have an understanding of what all the threats were, but they recognized that they needed to assist their fellow police.”

— Asia Simone Burns contributed to this article.