A Cobb County SWAT officer who shot and killed a military veteran who held two bank workers hostage on Friday took the life of another standoff suspect just 15 months earlier, a Georgia Bureau of Investigations spokeswoman confirmed.
On Monday, records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution identified Cobb police’s Dennis Ponte as the officer who killed Brian Easley, a 33-year-old ex-Marine, at a Wells Fargo in Marietta.
A review of records by The AJC found that Ponte pulled the trigger in an April 2016 standoff, killing Demetrius Deshon Dorsey. The 18-year-old Dorsey had been holding two employees at gunpoint at a Marathon gas station in Mableton.
The GBI investigated that shooting and is also looking into the Friday incident, in which Easley had been falsely claiming he had an IED that could “take out the entire room.”
The GBI on Saturday said that Easley had no explosives inside the Wells Fargo.
Easley portrayed himself as a Marine desperate for help and said he didn’t want to hurt anyone, according to comments he made to police and over the phone with a Channel 2 Action News assignment editor.
He said he was homeless and alleged that he had been kicked out of a Veterans Affairs Hospital earlier that week. The VA said Friday it couldn’t confirm his claim.
Easley had been sleeping in his car in Austell for three weeks when he came to HOPE Atlanta, said Edward Powers, executive director of the VA-sponsored initiative that places veterans in permanent housing.
Powers said Easley interviewed with the program in November.
“He was terribly afflicted with PTSD, and he was being treated for it,” Powers said.
The staff on four occasions called the cell phone number Easley had listed to tell him he’d been approved, Powers said. They never got ahold of him.
“This doesn’t happen very often when you call with good news,” he said.
Powers said if Easley did indeed get ejected from the VA, it would mean a lot of stress for someone already in a tenuous state.
Easley criticized the military when speaking during the standoff, authorities said.
“I think this is just another example of a young man who gave to his country and felt possibly that the country didn’t give back to him,” Cobb police chief Mike Register told Channel 2 Action News on Monday.
He said that officers saw a window of opportunity to help the hostages get out and took it.
When asked why the tactical team didn’t wait, Register said: “We can’t afford to Monday morning quarterback. We’re there, we have two innocent hostages in a building with an individual who is stating that he has a quantity of explosives that could level the building. It’s tragic. It’s tragic for all.”
Calvin Easley agrees that it is tragic Ponte shot and killed his brother.
“There could have been a peaceful resolution to this. They didn’t have to kill him,” he told the television station.
His brother was frustrated, he said, because the VA wasn't providing enough care for his PTSD.
“He was not on his medication, and I know it, because they wouldn’t help him,” Easley said.
He said he was outside the scene and begged authorities to let him talk to his brother, saying he was the only one who could get him to stand down.
“He made bad choices. This was a very bad choice. I believe it was a mental episode that he was having, and he was crying for help,” his brother said.
Easley’s death is the 41st officer-involved shooting in Georgia so far in 2017, according to an analysis by The AJC.
During the Washington Post’s national investigation of officer-involved shootings, it looked at cops involved in subsequent shootings.
The newspaper found that in the 367 cases it was able to get data for, one in eight such officer-involved shootings between January and September 2015 involved at least one officer who had taken part in a previous deadly shooting.
In Ponte’s first shooting, Cobb officers responded to the call of an armed robbery at the Marathon convenience store to find the teen was holding two employees hostage at gunpoint.
After talks with SWAT negotiators, Ponte shot Dorsey, who died after being taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.
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