By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — Two officer-involved shootings this weekend left one adult suspect dead and a 15-year-old injured, said Clayton County police.
A third shooting Saturday night resulted in the death of a burglary suspect by a homeowner, police said. That suspect is believed to be 14.
Chief Greg Porter said the shootings are "devastating."
"It's devastating not only to the police department but to the two individuals involved and their families," he said. "We will continue to do what we need to do to provide peace and harmony to the residents of Clayton County."
It started Friday night. Clayton County police Officer Melvin Snell was sitting at a traffic light near Upper Riverdale Road and Tara Boulevard was rear-ended by a female driver about 10:15 p.m., said Sgt. Kevin Hughes. Porter said Snell thought the collision was routine.
"Then he felt another crash and it ended up being the three vehicles colliding with each other," he said. "A third had hit her and she hit the officer."
However, the woman told Snell that the man who hit her is the father of her children and he'd been following her, said Hughes.
"The male exited his vehicle and accosted the female while in front of Officer Snell at which point Officer Snell began to intervene and attempted to separate the parties," he said. "The female alerted Officer Snell to the fact that the male subject was in possession of a handgun."
Porter said when Snell approached the man, a confrontation began. The man has not been identified by Clayton County police.
"He started a physical altercation with the police officer and produced a weapon," he said. "A secondary officer showed up and there was gunfire exchanged."
Snell was hit in the shoulder by the man, said Hughes. He was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment. The suspect died at the scene.
About 24 hours later, residents returning home to Sterling Ridge Lane near Jonesboro confronted three burglary suspects, said Hughes. The homeowner fired at the fleeing suspects and apparently killed one, reportedly a 14-year-old boy. Police have not identified him or the homeowner, who has not been charged.
Then Sunday night, about 11 p.m., Clayton County police officers tried to stop a car they believed had just been stolen in College Park. The car was being driven without headlights so officers were trying to initiate a traffic stop, said Hughes.
Porter said the driver refused to stop and crashed into two other vehicles while trying to elude officers. After the second collision, three suspects fled from the carjacked vehicle, he said. Hughes said at least one of the three was armed and pointed the weapon at the pursuing officer.
"The officer drew his weapon and fired, striking the male once in the leg," said Hughes. "The two remaining suspects are still at large. The victims of the carjacking were not harmed."
The wounded suspect was not identified but is believed to be 15.
Porter said the young ages of the suspects is alarming, remembering that Clayton County sheriff's Deputy Rick Daly was shot and killed in the line of duty by a 17-year-old nearly two years ago.
"We have some hard questions for their parents," he said. "We take very seriously that officers had to discharge their weapons in the line of duty. We have some challenges from a police perspective. We're there to help out, to be part of the solution, not part of the problem."
Porter said the two officer-involved shootings concern him because of the apparent defiance of the suspects.
"These are cases were individuals are being defiant of police presence," he said. "We need to be more vigilant as police officers because of the work we do. We need to take a more proactive stance and educate the community with what we do to protect their lives and property."
Porter said part of the strategy is to continue the department's Community-Orienting Policing initiative.
"We're looking at reaching out to faith-based community, Homeowners Associations, the schools," he said. "We're no different from other municipalities. We have challenges like everyone else. We want to be proactive."
Rev. Mike Glanton, president of the Clayton County Ministers’ Conference and co-founder of Coalition of Clayton County Clergy, said the violence is troubling.
“We in the faith-based community continue to pray for our community and its residents,” he said. “We are saddened by the recent rash of violence in our community. It is troubling for any violence to occur, but domestic violence, violence targeting our law enforcement personnel and violence involving our youth have become too frequent and is especially troubling.”
Glanton said Clayton County ministers will continue to work with the community to provide assistance to victims, families and leaders.
“The Clayton County Ministers’ Conference and Coalition of Clayton County Clergy, along with other ministers and minister organizations, are available to our county and city leaders for mentoring our youth and assisting in counseling and moral support of victims and families subjected to violence,” he said. “We are unified in our prayers for peace and collaboration.”
The department experienced a rash of officer-involved shootings beginning almost a year ago, June 16. By Day 11, a 13-year-old burglary suspect was dead after being shot by officers as he fled a Jonesboro house. The other two shootings involved adult suspects.