Armed suspects caught after multistate manhunt, standoff in Cherokee

Two men were taken into custody Sunday evening after they allegedly shot at law enforcement officers and ran away, leading to a three-hour SWAT standoff in Cherokee County.

Hunter Caleb Kirkland and Jeffrey Leighton Danner, both of Alabama, were surrounded following a massive manhunt involving multiple agencies, according to Cherokee sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Jay Baker.

Kirkland and Danner were wanted in connection with “several violent crimes in two counties in Alabama,” Baker said. The details of those incidents are not clear, but about 2 p.m. Sunday, officials in Cherokee learned that a silver Ford Escape involved in those crimes was believed to be in the area.

A Ball Ground police officer spotted the vehicle on I-575 and tried to pull it over, Baker said. However, he said the driver refused to stop.

That led to a police chase on I-575 to the end of Leo Taylor Lane. The SUV went behind the LAT Sportswear on Ball Ground Highway before Baker said two men got out and disappeared into the woods behind the store.

Cherokee deputies arrived to help Ball Ground police look for the suspects, he said. Moments later, the officers were fired upon, according to the Cherokee sheriff’s office.

No one was injured in the shooting.

Authorities called a multi-agency SWAT team to the scene, and several other agencies arrived to try to track down the suspects. A Georgia State Patrol helicopter spotted the two men and confirmed they were armed, Baker said.

Authorities closed Ga. 5 between Howell Bridge Road and East Cherokee Drive while they worked to take the men into custody. Residents living near the area were told to stay inside their homes.

For three hours, law enforcement officers were locked in a standoff with the armed men, Baker said. At some point, a SWAT team member shot Kirkland, and both men were taken into custody.

Kirkland was initially taken to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Baker said. He was moved to Grady Memorial Hospital and is stable, officials said Monday.

Danner was arrested but was taken to Northside Hospital Cherokee on Sunday after he complained of a medical issue, officials said. On Monday, he was booked into the Cherokee County jail on four counts of aggravated assault against a police officer, one count of fleeing and attempting to elude and one count of simple battery against a police officer. He remains in jail without bond.

“Cherokee Sheriff’s Office detectives are currently communicating with investigators in Alabama regarding charges in that state, including attempted murder,” Baker said.

The GBI was called to investigate the shooting, the agency confirmed. The incident is the 13th officer-involved shooting investigation the agency has opened this year.

It follows the 12th shooting Saturday in South Georgia, which left a Decatur County sheriff’s deputy dead. The suspected shooter in that case was arrested after a multi-agency manhunt.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also tracks officer-involved shootings that don’t involve the GBI, and those numbers sometimes differ from the GBI’s tally.