One was a dedicated young police officer whose wife was set to give birth to their second son any day. The other was an ex Marine — a father of three boys himself — who was out of work and deeply embittered about the government.
Late Friday morning, their paths would intersect in a violent confrontation that left both men dead. All because of a relatively minor traffic violation and a missed court date.
As Locust Grove Police Officer Chase Maddox anxiously awaited the joy that accompanies the birth of a child, Tierre Guthrie seemed bent on self-destruction.
About two weeks ago, he called his sister Claudette Wright in Fort Lauderdale. Their conversation quickly deteriorated into familiar territory, with Guthrie espousing extreme anti-government views and bizarre conspiracy theories. Wright ended what would be her last conversation with her brother by hanging up on him.
“To me, he just talked like a crazy person,” Wright told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Guthrie, 39, was killed in his home following a shootout with authorities that began after two Henry County deputies showed up on his doorstep to serve a warrant for failing to appear. He was shot four times, twice in the chest. The 26-year-old Maddox, called in to back up to the deputies, was shot three times, with the fatal bullet lodging in his head.
At least nine shots were fired inside the Saint Francis Court home where Guthrie lived with his girlfriend, known only by her first name, Veronica, to friends and family contacted by the AJC, and their three young sons, one of whom is still a toddler. The deputies, Michael D. Corley and Ralph Sidwell “Sid” Callaway, were also hit. Corley’s bulletproof vest saved him; Callaway was struck in the abdomen and was listed in stable condition Saturday night at Atlanta Medical Center.
As the GBI investigates what led to the shooting, and who may have fired first, neighbors and family members are left wondering why Guthrie, an ex-Marine, would engage in a battle with no chance at victory.
Bryant Narcisse, who lived a few houses down from Guthrie, said his neighbor was “a real nice guy. He would give you the shirt off his back.”
But Narcisse said Guthrie also had several run ins with the Henry Sheriff’s Department prior to Friday’s showdown. Guthrie told his neighbor he didn’t recognize the right of deputies to step on his property.
Guthrie didn’t hesitate to share his fringe beliefs, Narcisse said. Guthrie told his neighbor he was an adherent of “Moorism,” a religious organization founded on the premise that African-Americans are descendants of the Moorish Empire and thus are Moors by nationality and Islamic by faith.
“He just believed strongly you can’t pull up on my property and serve me with a warrant or try to harm me in any kind of way because it’s private property,” Narcisse said.
On the right side of the door to the house, Guthrie, who home-schooled his children and delivered his third son at his residence because he didn’t trust doctors, had taped a red-and-white sign that reads: “Private Property. No trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted.”
“He was always talking crap about the government,” said Wright, who only connected with her brother over the last few years. They were raised apart after their mother’s divorce.
“It was like someone was feeding him this bull,” she said. “One time he told me that (black people) don’t have to pay for car insurance because we own the land. Stuff like that.”
And he didn’t like to be challenged, his 45-year-old older sister said.
“I would just hang up the phone on him,” Wright said. “I don’t have time for this.”
She sensed increased desperation from Guthrie during their most recent phone chats. Wright learned, from Guthrie’s girlfriend, that he had been out of work for two months. He also forbid Veronica from working, Wright said, wanting her to stay home and teach their sons. Guthrie didn’t trust public educators.
The couple fought often, Guthrie’s sister said — “He’d call her the worst names” — and had barely spoken the last two weeks.
Neighbor Lyvonne Lightfoot said it was as if no one lived in the Guthrie’s home on Saint Francis Court.
“I’ve never seen movement out of the house,” Lightfoot said.
That changed a little before 11 a.m. Friday. According to GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles, “Guthrie became combative and escalated the situation” after the deputies arrived to serve the warrant. That’s when Maddox arrived on the scene to assist.
“A fight ensued resulting in Guthrie and the officers firing their weapons,” she said.
Precious Evans, Narcisse’s daughter, witnessed some of the choas from her home.
“I heard a gunshot, but I really wasn’t sure what it was so I ignored it,” she said. “When I heard it again, I looked out the window and I saw a police officer running into the middle of the cul de sac and turned around pointed his gun (at Guthrie) and said ‘Get down” and he shot one more time.”
Inside the house, Veronica and her three sons hid, frightened, behind closed doors, up the stairs from the front door, she told Wright.
“(Veronica) said she didn’t even know he had a gun,” Wright said.
Guthrie served in the U.S. Marine Corps but didn’t talk much about his time in the service. He was twice deployed overseas but it’s unclear whether he saw any combat.
But his time in the military changed him, said Wright. Quoting their brother Paul Guthrie, who lives in England, “he joined the Marines normal and came out crazy.”
Despite his erratic behavior, Wright was surprised her brother’s life ended as it did.
“The ones I really feel sorry for are those three boys,” she said. “And the children of that officer killed and his wife. Just awful.”
All across Locust Grove, those who knew Maddox, and many who didn’t, pledged to support the family he left behind. Courtney Lauren, a friend of Maddox’ pregnant wife Alex, launched a GoFundMe page which quickly raised more than double the $20,000 goal. Lauren said all donations will go to Alex, whom Maddox married in 2016, and the couple’s young sons. A vigil held in Maddox’s memory Saturday night brought more donations.
Donnie Dunlap who owns a T-shirt printing business in Locust Grove, said he only met Maddox once but still felt compelled to help the family by printing memorial shirts. He pledged the proceeds from sales over the cost of the shirts to the slain officer’s family.
Other Locust Grove businesses, including a bakery and the gym where Maddox worked out, are also pitching in to raise money for the family, he said.
On Facebook, friends continued to share their memories of Maddox, described by all as a fun-loving guy who always made them laugh. After graduating from Ola High School in McDonough in 2010, Maddox attended North Georgia College State University (known as University of North Georgia since 2013), one of seven senior military colleges in the country.
Students at these civilian schools participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program and can become commissioned officers after graduation.
From there, Maddox joined the Locust Grove Police Department.
In his five years on the force Maddox made a solid impression. Locust Grove resident Sharon Forrest, writing on the Officer Down Memorial Page, told how Maddox went beyond the call of duty recently to comfort her children after their father died in his sleep.
“R.I.P. Officer Maddox. You were an amazing young man,” Forrest wrote. “My son told me how you came into the house and went to (his father’s room) to comfort him and get him out of there. My daughter told me how you insisted on staying with us after everyone left until the funeral home came to get him.
“What a stand up young man you were and I will never forget you.”
-Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Nedra Rhone contributed to this story
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