By Ed Brock
Ray Sellers and Anthony Tyler are pretty sure they knew the man police say shot a Clayton County officer in the face before being shot to death by another officer.
"I think I played basketball with him. I knew him from way back," Sellers said about 22-year-old Favor Thom of Riverdale.
"He was a pretty cool kid," said Tyler as the two sat on a stoop at Riverwalk Apartments near Riverdale where the shooting occurred.
Officer Dwayne Penn, 29, is expected to recover from his wounds and the operation to relieve swelling on his brain, said Clayton County Police Capt. Tim Robinson. He remained in serious but stable condition in the intensive care unit at Southern Regional Medical Center Tuesday, Robinson added.
Thom was shot and killed by a field training officer who was with Penn.
Between 1:15 and 1:30 a.m. Penn and the training officer responded to a call from a resident at the apartment complex on Riverdale Road who reported seeing a shadow pass by their window.
The officers confronted Thom at the scene.
"He started running and they got into a short foot chase," Robinson said.
When the officers caught up with Thom they found him hiding under some bushes.
"As they were trying to take him into custody he pulled a gun and fired multiple times," Robinson said.
After Penn was hit the training officer returned fire, killing Thom. Robinson said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been called in to review the shooting and the training officer, whose name Robinson did not release, has been put on paid administrative leave as part of the regular department policy in all officer-involved shootings.
As in any use of force, Robinson said, the policy will review the circumstances to see if safety procedures should be changed but it appeared the officers followed procedures.
Sellers said he heard the gunshots and came outside to find a lot of people, but he didn't see the shooting itself. The shooting happened near the building where Willie Walton lives and he heard the shots, too.
"I went back to sleep," Walton said.
Penn joined the department in March and has been on the road for three weeks.
After he was brought to SRMC and stabilized by emergency room doctors, neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Friedman was called in to operate on Penn.
The bullet entered Penn's left cheek, burrowed under the skin and exited just behind the left ear, Friedman said.
"The bullet never entered the brain. It never entered the skull," Friedman said. "He's one extremely fortunate guy."
However, the energy of the impact from the bullet caused a ruptured blood vessel inside the skull. In a five-hour operation he removed a portion of Penn's skull, repaired the bleeding vessels, removed a blood clot and installed a sensor to measure the pressure on the brain.
Penn was being kept sedated to encourage faster healing but may be brought out of sedation today if there is no more bleeding and increased bleeding. If all goes well Penn may be released by next week.
Members of the department and other friends visited Penn, a former professional football player, at the hospital on Tuesday.
Robinson said that Clayton County police had arrested Thom before on charges of obstruction of an officer, disorderly conduct, battery and, in March, for carrying a concealed weapon.