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Officer shoots suspect allegedly caught in the act

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

An unidentified man in his mid-20s was shot five times by a Riverdale police officer, while allegedly crashing a station wagon full of stolen shoes into the officer's car.

Two Riverdale Police Department officers responded to a reported burglary at Foot Locker, 6777 Ga. State Highway 85, at about 5 a.m., Tuesday, police said.

One officer checked the front of the store, which is only a little more than a block away from the city's police station, and the other drove around to the back, interrupting a burglary in progress, according to Chief Samuel F. Patterson.

There was a large hole smashed through the shoe store's brick wall, and the officer, who is not being named by police, saw two men run from the scene. He did not see the third burglary suspect, Patterson said. He was ducked down in the driver's seat of a Ford Escort station wagon, police said.

"The officer opened the door to get out of his vehicle," Patterson said, "and the man revved up, or gunned the motor, and approached in a direct line of assault. If the door had not been halfway open and the door hadn't taken the hit, the vehicle would have hit the officer."

The policeman fell back into his Ford Crown Victoria and shot at the Ford Escort seven times. Five bullets hit the driver.

According to Patterson, the officer then put away his gun, pulled the wounded man from the car, and tried to "put pressure on the wounds to try to keep him from bleeding out," until an ambulance arrived.

On Tuesday afternoon, the man was reportedly in stable condition at Atlanta Medical Center. Police had still not identified the man, who was described as a black male, apparently in his mid-20s, with a dark complexion, wearing a white T-shirt and blue-jean shorts.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe of the incident, which is the only officer-involved shooting in the county so far this year. The GBI's investigation could take up to six months, and the results will be turned over to the district attorney's office for review.

The officer involved reportedly has been with the city department for about a year, and has been in law enforcement for about five years.

The Riverdale Police plan to charge the unidentified man with aggravated assault and burglary. Investigators are still attempting to identify and locate the two who fled from the scene, and police say the trio of suspects could be connected with other area burglaries.

"We have had some similar burglaries," Patterson said, "in clothing stores, where the method of entry was smashing through a brick exterior, where a sledge hammer, or some type of battering ram, or a maul device, was used to smash through the brick exterior."

It was not clear, Tuesday afternoon, how many shoes were loaded into the station wagon, because the vehicle was turned over to the GBI as evidence in the shooting. The back of the Ford appeared to be full of boxes of athletic shoes. Patterson said the three suspects may have been about to leave when they were interrupted by the officer.

Anyone with information about the break-in, or those involved, is asked to call the police at (770) 996-3382, ext. 103.

Anyone with information about the shooting, can call the GBI at (404) 244-2600.