Photo by Curt Yeomans
Clayton County police Maj. Rick Webster (center) talks to law enforcement officers from various agencies about an accident that involved Clayton County police SMASH officer, Michael Hooks, who was hit by a burglary suspect in a vacant parking lot near Old Dixie Highway and Frontage Road in Forest Park Wednesday.
JONESBORO — A couple of hoaxes have interrupted the manhunt for Thomas Paige.
Paige is wanted by police for hitting Clayton County Police Officer Michael Hooks with his pickup truck Wednesday, according to Lt. Christopher Windley.
Windley said a man called police claiming to be Paige and that he said he wanted to surrender to authorities at the CVS Pharmacy store on Upper Riverdale Road.
“It was another hoax,” said Clayton County Police spokesperson Eddie Soto. “Some guy called crying saying that it was Thomas Paige and that he wanted to give himself up. We had an officers to arrive fairly quickly and he said he did not see anyone around the area matching the description of Paige or the clothing that he said he was wearing.”
Police went inside the CVS and checked the store surveillance camera to verify that it was in fact Paige, Soto said.
However, authorities said the video gave no indication the suspect had been at the location.
Hooks is listed in serious condition at Atlanta Medical Center, according to police.
He was hit around 12: 08 p.m., in the old Kmart store parking lot located at 5250 Frontage Road, in Forest Park. The incident happened when Hooks along with several other Strategic Methods Against Street Harms (SMASH) officers responded to a burglary in progress call.
“Officers began to arrive and approach the northwest corner of the business, when a black pick-up truck came from the rear of the business striking [Hooks] as he was approaching the corner,” Windley said.
Windley said Paige fled the scene in the truck and wrecked in a ditch. Paige fled on foot Wednesday and police were joined the Clayton Sheriff’s office deputies and K-9 unit along with U.S. Marshals.
Hooks was life-flighted to Atlanta Medical Center were police said he is listed in serious condition.
Hooks and his SMASH team were conducting “Operation Safe Holiday” when he was reportedly hit by the burglary suspects. Police said Paige and his passenger, Jabari Akil Jackson are suspected of stealing metal from behind the K-mart building. Jackson was apprehended at the scene Wednesday.
Windley said police have made numerous arrests since starting the safety operation, where police conduct roadblocks, patrol high crime areas and respond to burglaries in progress.
Clayton Police officers and the SMASH unit are working together in “Operation Safe Holiday” that is scheduled to continue until January.
Scott Stubbs is the commander of the Strategic Methods Against Street Harms (SMASH) unit who along with patrolmen are conducting “Operation Safe Holiday.”
Stubbs gives the special team instructions daily during a briefing of road-block locations.
“Be vigilant and be safe, people are out here to do harm and could possibly be carrying weapons,” said Stubbs as he closed in a recent briefing.
Clayton County Police Chief Greg Porter and Maj. Johnny Robinson attended the briefing for the Pointe South Parkway and Park Villa Way road-block, held Dec. 5.
“We want to promote a safe and productive holiday season for the residents of Clayton County,” Porter said. “ I think it is very important that the citizens know the commitment of the Clayton County Police Department. We want to start 2013 off right by providing a high quality of law enforcement service, that we think they deserve. We look forward to working with the stakeholders and the community as a whole.”
Roadblocks, responding to burglary in progress calls and patrolling are components of “Operation Safe Holiday,” according to officials.
“At the direction of the chief he [asked] me to put together a plan in reference to certain types of crimes,” Robinson said. “Because, he wants the citizens of the county to feel safe and not worry about crime. I put a plan together and informed everyone on this operation to be very professional and also aggressive, as well as have a zero tolerance on crime.”
During the special detail on Dec. 12 the special team responded to a burglary in progress call on Pembrook Drive in Rex. Police were on the lookout for a suspect carrying a flat screen television.
“Officers were able to locate the address of the possible suspects,” Windley said. One of the suspects gave police a fake name and he was detained.
“Based on the information given and the totality of the circumstances, a warrant was obtained and executed on the residence,” Windley added.
Four people from Rex were arrested at the Pembrook Drive home when police found a stolen television and other items they said were possibly from other burglaries.
According to the authorites:
• Rashann Calhoun, 21, and Ryan Calhoun, 20, were each charged with theft by receiving stolen property, tampering with evidence and violation of probation.
• Jerry Barnes, 18, and a 16-year-old juvenile male were charged with first degree burglary, and tampering with evidence.
Barnes received an additional charge of giving police a false name.
While on the SMASH team and officers were patrolling on Dec. 5 an officer called for back-up when he saw a car running a stop sign at Attleboro and Royce Drive, Stubbs said.
Stubbs said when the officer turned on his emergency lights and sirens the driver of the 2001 red Mitsubishi Diamante spun out of control into a Royce Drive driveway just inches from hitting a parked pick-up truck.
“The driver jumped out of the car and ran, but officer L. Corbett stopped him,” Stubbs said. “He was placed in custody for driving recklessly. The [vehicle identification number] on the car was checked and it came back as stolen out of Meriwether County.”
The driver of the stolen car, Danny Lee Wooten Jr., was arrested and charged with theft by receiving stolen property, stop sign violation, driving with a suspended license and reckless driving.
Wooten, a Jonesboro resident, had bond set at $10,000.
Stubbs said police suspected Wooten, 37, of using methamphetamine prior to his arrest. Police detained two female passengers at the scene, who were in the stolen car with Wooten, he added.
“It’s a good thing they caught him,” said Slyvester Lewis. Wooten almost hit Lewis’s pick-up truck which was parked in the driveway of his home, located at 151 Royce Drive.
“I just pulled my truck further back into the driveway yesterday,” Lewis said. “If I hadn’t, he probably would have tore my truck up.”
Lewis said he was shocked to see Wooten spinning the car out of control going up the hill on Royce Drive.
“I saw him jump out of the [car] window,” Lewis added. “It was like seven or eight police cars out here.”
Lewis said he watched as officers commanded Wooten to place his hands on Lewis’s truck. He said when one of the women got out of the car, she appeared to be disoriented.
“It was like she was on something, like she was in a daze,” Lewis said.
“She said she and the driver used meth yesterday,” said the police lieutenant. “The driver said he was using meth, but did not have any on him. He said he was just coming off of it.”
Aundray King lives next door to Lewis on Royce Drive. King said if the incident had happened 15 minutes earlier, it could have endangered young students arriving home from school.
“I think the police did a pretty good job catching them,” King said. “I’m glad no one was hurt and that it did not escalate into a disaster. Because, the kids had just gotten home from school. Their bus stop is about 200 yards away from here. They get off the bus after school and walk down the street to go home. “