A veteran Muscogee County sheriff's sergeant is home with a bullet in his arm, and three teenagers are in jail after a shootout Saturday that also wounded two suspects, city leaders said during a news conference Sunday.
Sgt. Jeremy Hattaway shot back at the three teens after they opened fire on him when he caught up with the vehicle they were in, which had been reported stolen, Sheriff Greg Countryman said. Hattaway reported that when he cornered the suspects at Andrews Road and East Central Street, they started shooting, the sheriff said.
"He said that all he saw were guns coming out of the windows," Countryman said.
Hattaway struck one suspect three times and another once, the sheriff said. The suspect wounded once got out with the one who was unharmed and ran, but Columbus police saturating the area caught both, according to police Chief Freddie Blackmon, who was at the news conference along with Mayor Skip Henderson.
Countryman said Hattaway was treated at the hospital and allowed to go home, though he may need surgery later.
The sheriff gave this list of the suspects, each 17 years old, and their charges:
- Claudio Thompson — aggravated assault on a police officer, using a gun to commit a crime, auto theft, and obstructing police.
- Anton Adarrius Hamilton — aggravated assault on a police officer, using a gun to commit a crime, theft by receiving stolen property, being a convicted felon with a firearm, and obstructing police.
- Vincente Perez-Lopez — aggravated assault on a police officer, using a gun to commit a crime, theft by receiving stolen property, and obstructing police.
The sheriff did not say which two of the three were wounded.
Some details of Saturday's events were unclear, but Countryman and Blackmon told reporters it began when the owner of the stolen Ford Focus called 911 after spotting the car on the street.
Police officers maneuvered through traffic to catch up with the car before they lost sight of it as it sped away, Blackmon said.
Hattaway, driving an unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe equipped with emergency lights and a siren, was gassing up his vehicle at the city pumps on Cusseta Road when he heard a broadcast of the Ford's description and went looking for it, Countryman said.
Hattaway caught up with the Ford in the area of Victory Drive and pursued it, the sheriff said. The Focus sideswiped the Tahoe, leading to the confrontation and shootout on Andrews Road, where multiple shots hit Hattaway's vehicle, the sheriff said.
The pursuit and shooting happened around 3:30 p.m., Countryman said. It was unclear where police first saw the Focus, though an earlier news release said officers followed it through downtown and into south Columbus.
The mayor and the two law enforcement leaders said Sunday that too many young people in Columbus are getting guns stolen from automobiles that owners have left them in. Henderson urged residents to take their guns inside their homes overnight.
Countryman and Blackmon said their agencies will continue to work together to fight gun violence and gang-related crime. Hattaway, who has been with the sheriff's office at least 20 years, is the agency's gang expert, but city leaders could not say Sunday whether the shooting was gang related.
The sheriff said his staff will handle the criminal investigation of Hattaway's assault and the alleged car theft, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation will be asked to review Hattaway's shooting the two suspects.
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