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Hit-and-run driver suspect caught

Paige arrested in Gwinnett, proclaims innocence

Photo by Elaine Rackley
Thomas Paige was apprehended by the Metro Atlanta Fugitive Squad Wednesday. He was escorted by Clayton County Sheriff’s deputies to the police headquarters.

Photo by Elaine Rackley Thomas Paige was apprehended by the Metro Atlanta Fugitive Squad Wednesday. He was escorted by Clayton County Sheriff’s deputies to the police headquarters.

JONESBORO — The manhunt for the suspected driver in the hit-and-run accident that injured a Clayton County Police officer last week is over.

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Photo by Elaine Rackley Thomas Paige was in handcuffs as he was taken inside the Clayton County Police Department by deputies, Wednesday. Police said one of his male friends was arrested for hiding Paige at a Duluth apartment complex.

Thomas Areeco Paige was apprehended Wednesday around 2 p.m. by the Metro Atlanta Fugitive Squad in Gwinnett County. Clayton County Police Sgt. K.T. Hughes said Paige was hiding out at friend’s house, in a Duluth apartment complex.

Paige, 36, of Hampton, was in handcuffs when he was escorted into the police department by Clayton County Sheriff’s deputies. He is wanted by authorities, not only for allegedly hitting Clayton County Police Officer Michael Hooks with his pickup truck Dec. 12, but for allegedly burglarizing metal from an old store.

As he was being carried into police headquarters, Paige proclaimed his innocence.

“I didn’t do it,” he said.

When asked about Hooks, Paige responded, “I hope the officer gets better.”

He said police “stomped my face,” causing it to bruise with a visible red patch beneath his left eye.

Paige is facing a long list of charges, including hit and run, reckless driving, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, obstructing an officer and loitering, according to the arrest warrant.

“At this time, it is believed that he was the driver,” said Hughes in a press conference held at police headquarters Wednesday.

“As of right now, the friend has been charged,” Hughes added.

Hughes said he did not have the name of the person suspected of hiding Paige. However, he said Gwinnett County Police are filing the charges against Paige’s friend.

“[Paige] was hiding out with someone who was believed to be helping him avoid capture,” Hughes said. “He was located in the apartment complex with another male, who was arrested for playing a part in hiding Paige. It is not a good idea to help a person who has committed a crime.”

Gwinnett Police Cpl. Jake Smith said the apartment complex address where Paige was found is 1060 Court Drive in Duluth.

Hooks was released from the hospital Tuesday and is recovering at his home, Hughes said.

Hooks was injured when he, along with several other Strategic Methods Against Street Harms (SMASH) officers, responded to a burglary in progress call.

Police said Hooks was hit in the old Kmart store parking lot located at 5250 Frontage Road in Forest Park.

“Several other officers gave [Paige] instructions and commands to stop but [Paige] refused to obey the lawful commands,” Clayton County Police Detective A. Melvin said in the arrest warrant. “He instead used his vehicle offensively and struck Officer Hooks with that vehicle. He then continued out of the parking lot, where he abandoned the vehicle.”

The officers fired at the suspects, but there was no evidence inside the truck that Paige had been hit, according to police.

Clayton Police Lt. Chris Windley said when Hooks was hit his body flew into the air.

“It is a relief, in lieu of everything that has gone on, to have him in custody,” Hughes said.

Police said Paige and his passenger, Jabari Akil Jackson, were suspected of stealing metal from behind the Kmart building. Jackson was apprehended at the scene the same day.

“Officers began to arrive and approach the northwest corner of the business, when a black pickup 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 and police were joined by the Clayton Sheriff’s office deputies and K-9 unit along with U.S. Marshals in the search.

Hooks was life-flighted to Atlanta Medical Center.

At the time of the incident, Hooks and his SMASH team were conducting “Operation Safe Holiday.”

Hughes said there was an “extensive” search for Paige.

“The squad has been working diligently to apprehend Paige and put in some long hours searching Clayton County and surrounding areas,” Hughes said. “I am sure the SMASH team is relieved, as in any incident like this we all suffer.”

Paige has a lengthy criminal history dating to 1998, including entering auto and theft by taking charges. In 1999 and in 2011, he was charged with obstruction of an officer.