Police shootings in Georgia surpass 2020 total

GBI has investigated 97 incidents this year, including 9 this month

When a 16-year-old allegedly fled from a traffic stop in Columbus and pulled out a gun when confronted by police, an officer pulled the trigger on a weapon of her own.

That officer’s bullet, which struck the teen in the leg, led to the GBI opening its 96th investigation this year into a shooting involving law enforcement officers. That equaled the total number of officer-involved incidents the state agency responded to in 2020.

Then, with a fatal shooting involving a police officer less than 36 hours later, the GBI surpassed that total.

On Tuesday evening, 45-year-old Shawn Martin died in a hospital after an encounter with Savannah police ended in gunfire. According to the GBI, Martin was sought in connection with an aggravated assault in South Carolina and was shot after wielding a knife at the officers who found him.

According to data from the GBI, the shootings are two of nine involving police officers that the agency has been asked to investigate this month. More than half of the year’s 97 total have been fatal, with 54 of the police encounters ending with a death. Last year, the agency investigated 43 fatal shootings.

The incident involving the teen began Sunday evening when a Columbus officer pulled over a car, the GBI said. When the officer approached the driver’s side, the teen, who was behind the wheel, pointed a handgun at him, authorities said.

The officer retreated without firing shots and the car sped away, but police located it about noon the next day and tried to pull it over once again, according to the GBI. The teen driver sped off, hitting a car along the way.

After the crash, the 16-year-old abandoned the car and ran into a wooded area nearby. When a police officer found him later, he was holding a handgun, the GBI said.

“The officer gave him verbal commands to drop the handgun, but he did not comply,” the GBI said. “The officer fired her handgun, hitting the person in the leg.”

The fatal shooting in Savannah happened about 9:40 p.m. the following day inside a home, the GBI said.

Investigators in Beaufort County, South Carolina, had been looking for Martin in connection with an assault in which a woman had her car stolen. Few details were released about the assault, but the GBI said the victim suffered multiple skull fractures.

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office believed Martin was in possession of the woman’s car. Savannah officers spotted the stolen car on Tuesday evening and tried to pull it over.

While Martin wasn’t behind the wheel at the time of the stop, the driver told police they could find him at a nearby home, and the officers went in search of him.

When an officer searching the home opened a door to a closet, Martin emerged swinging a knife, the GBI said.

“Officers gave verbal commands to drop the knife, but he did not comply,” the GBI said. “Two officers fired their weapons, both hitting Martin.”

The incidents were also the third and fourth to occur within one week.

On Thursday, Muscogee County deputies shot at a suspect who they said had stolen a vehicle and then used it to hit a law enforcement officer. Then on Saturday, a Georgia State Patrol trooper and a Haralson County deputy both fired into a truck when the driver allegedly accelerated toward them during a chase.