DA: Officer justified in shooting, killing man in Middle Georgia

A man was fatally shot May 17 in Greenville after an encounter with police.

A man was fatally shot May 17 in Greenville after an encounter with police.

A Middle Georgia officer has been cleared by the district attorney after shooting and killing a 42-year-old in May when the man allegedly pointed his gun at police.

Wallace Dean Staples was fatally shot May 17 in Greenville after an encounter with police. Multiple 911 calls stated that Staples was walking through residents' yards shirtless and holding a gun, GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said at the time. One caller said Staples pointed the gun in the direction of children, while another said the man claimed he was wanted by police, authorities said.

Officers responded to the scene and found Staples, who “appeared to be heavily under the influence of some substance,” in an “agitated state," Coweta Judicial Circuit DA Herb Cranford said in a news release Friday. A subsequent investigation found that Staples had methamphetamine in his system and a blood alcohol content of .179, Cranford said, which is more than twice the legal limit to drive.

Officers said Staples was making “jerky movements” and had his thumb on the trigger of the gun.

“The fact that his thumb was on the trigger and that Staples held the gun awkwardly heightened the probability that the pistol could go off either intentionally or unintentionally,” Cranford said.

The officers tried to get Staples to put the gun down, but they said he refused and told them to kill him. Police said he also moved erratically and quickly, and at one point had the gun pointed directly at his head, according to the release.

When Staples pointed the gun at the officers, one of them fired, hitting the man in the neck. Officers tried to render first aid, but Staples died on the scene.

According to the DA’s office, all interactions that were recorded on the officers’ body cameras were consistent with the interviews that were given by everyone involved in the incident.

“Following a thorough review of the facts of this case and the relevant law, the District Attorney finds that the officer who used deadly force against Staples was justified in defending himself and others from Staples after Staples pointed a pistol in their direction,” Cranford said. “Therefore, the District Attorney concludes that this officer did not violate the laws of the State of Georgia, and the State declines to prosecute anyone regarding this case. Consequently, the District Attorney’s Office considers this matter closed.”

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