One day. Eleven hours. Three officer-involved shootings. Two men dead.
Thursday could’ve easily ended with three fatalities, if not for a change in policy four years ago by the Georgia State Patrol requiring all of its troopers to wear department-issued body armor vests.
Shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday on I-75 South in Bartow County, an unnamed state patrolman was shot at close range — two to three feet, according to the GSP — in the abdomen. The vest saved his life, but felon who shot him lost his own life when two other troopers returned fire.
That incident made Kenneth Marin Anderson the 74th civilian shot by an officer in Georgia this year, putting the state on track to match the 97 such shootings that occurred in 2017, according to the GBI.
Back in May, Georgia was on pace to nearly double the number of shootings by officers following a period in which Georgia officers shot 11 people in 11 days, a number GBI Director Vernon Keenan called unprecedented. He blamed a significant rise in violence against police — a rise he says is fueled by the opioid crisis.
“Opioids will kill you. Meth will make you want to kill someone,” said Keenan, who also cited criminal possession of firearms and poor mental health as other factors behind violent confrontations with police.
Former DeKalb County Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander, who served on President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, agrees, saying criminals have become “more emboldened, more violent.”
That was on display in each of Thursday’s three officer-involved shootings between 8:53 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. Thursday.
Anderson was handcuffed behind his back when he shot at the trooper. He was arrested after police found drugs, guns and cash in his car, GSP Capt. Mark Perry said. Anderson was wanted for a parole violation and had been on the run for eight months.
About two hours before that confrontation, Mahlon Edward Summerour, 63, was shot and killed after Monroe police said he was carrying a firearm that turned out to be a replica Thompson submachine gun. GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said Summerour was about one block from Athens Technical College’s Walton campus when police, responding to a report of a man with a gun, tracked him down.
“During the encounter, Summerour pointed the weapon at one of the officers,” Miles said. One officer fired at Summerour, striking him in the chest. He was taken to a local hospital where he later died.
No one died in the third incident which, once again, involved a suspect shooting at police.
Starting at around 7:45 p.m., Richland police were led on a chase through three southwest Georgia counties after Davion Omar Watson, 30, of Albany, drove through a roadblock. Along the way, Watson hit one officer’s vehicle and fired at another. The chase ended on South Main Street in Dawson after an officer returned. fire. Watson’s injuries are described as non-life threatening. No officers were injured.
In running virtually even with last year’s total of officer-involved shootings, Georgia mirrors the national trend, according to The Washington Post. The Post maintains a database of officer-involved shootings. As of one week ago, the Post reports, there have been two fewer shootings this year than at the same time in 2017.
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