Melchizedek Woodward
Photo: Cobb County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Cobb County Sheriff's Office

GBI identifies man accused of firing at Cobb officer after stealing U-Haul

A man accused of shooting at a Cobb County police officer was apprehended Tuesday morning, hours after authorities suspended their initial search for him.

The man, identified by the GBI as Melchizedek Woodward, exchanged gunfire Monday night with the officer in a neighborhood off Veterans Memorial Highway in the Austell area, according to police. He was found with multiple gunshot wounds, although Cobb police spokesman Officer Neil Penirelli said he was not sure how or when the man was hit.

 

In a news release, the GBI said the incident began as a suspicious vehicle call around 10 p.m. in the area of Janet Lane and Davis Drive. Officers allegedly found Woodward in a reported stolen U-Haul.

“(An officer) actually recognized the suspect and was attempting to interrogate him or question him about that previous incident when the suspect actually pulled a gun and fired on him,” police spokesman Sgt. Wayne Delk told Channel 2 Action News from the scene. 

The officer fired at the vehicle, and Woodward exited the van and ran away, the GBI said. At the time, the officer didn’t know whether the suspect was shot. No officers were injured during the incident.

Police and SWAT officers locked down the neighborhood overnight while they searched for the man, advising residents to stay inside. The manhunt was called off around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday after SWAT swept a home on Janet Lane and found it empty.

Police and SWAT officers locked down the neighborhood overnight while they searched for the man.
Photo: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Nearly three hours later, Willie Ruth Smith spotted Woodward outside her home in the 1700 block of Veterans Memorial Highway. She was headed to her car around 8 a.m. and was surprised to see him slumping on her back porch. 

 

He told her he meant no harm, he was shot and he needed her help.

“He reached into his pocket and pulled the lining of his pocket out,” Smith told AJC.com. “He said, ‘See? It’s full of blood.’ After he did that, he tried to stagger, he tried to hold on to something. He said he was hurt bad.”

Smith was still on the phone with 911 dispatch when she saw officers swarm the house. According to police, Smith’s description of the man matched the description of the suspect. 

A resident takes a cellphone photo of Cobb County investigators as they process evidence at her home Tuesday morning. The woman called 911 after a man showed up on her back porch with gunshot wounds. 
Photo: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Brian Holdeman, who works at an auto parts store across the street, watched from his business as police surrounded the man and took him into custody.

 

“We were looking out the front door here and this guy came walking through the driveway there,” he told AJC.com. “They had about four cops run up and rush him, and (they) set him on the ground and rolled him over and cuffed him. He stood up there and screamed a few times, and they rolled him down and put him in the ambulance.”

Smith said the officers stripped the man of his clothes. She assumed they were looking for a weapon, but she said she did not see one on him.

Woodward was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital to be treated for his multiple gunshot wounds and later released, the GBI said. He was booked into the Cobb County jail Tuesday evening on numerous charges, including aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a felon. 

Medics with Cobb fire treat a shooting suspect in the back of an ambulance after the man was apprehended outside a Veterans Memorial Highway home Tuesday morning.
Photo: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

The GBI was called in to investigate the officer-involved shooting, the 25th such investigation the agency has opened this year.

OVER THE LINE: Police shootings in Georgia

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