WARNER ROBINS -- Police Chief Brett Evans issued a written statement Tuesday afternoon supporting officers involved in a Sunday night incident that erupted into a fatal shootout with police.
Anthony Tony Rawls, 50, a lieutenant with the state Department of Corrections who worked at Macon State Prison, was shot and killed in the exchange.
I stand in firm support of our officers and believe the investigation will show that they acted within the agencys policies and procedures in accordance with the law, Evans stated.
Shortly before 8 p.m. on Sunday, officers responded to a 911 call from 106 Huntwood Lane, where they were told a man was armed with a gun and threatening his wife, according to police.
As officers approached the house, police say, shots were exchanged between officers and the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene. One of the officers received minor injuries, according to police.
In Tuesdays statement, Evans said city police officers are professional and well trained. He expressed full confidence in the GBI probe and said thoughts and prayers go out to all the families involved
Being forced to take someones life impacts an officer on a deeply personal level, Evans stated. Deadly force is always a last resort and is only used when a person or an officers life is in immediate danger.
The officers involved are supervisors, husbands, fathers and friends, Evans continued. They understand the importance of life and family.
Of six Warner Robins police officers who responded to the incident Sunday, five of the officers exchanged gunfire, said Rodney Wall, special agent in charge of the GBIs Perry office. Rawls also fired multiple times at the officers, but who fired first and what prompted the exchange of gunfire remains under investigation, he said.
Also, the results of Mondays autopsy at a GBI crime lab are still pending, Wall said. The preliminary findings show Rawls died of injuries sustained from multiple gunshot wounds inflicted by officers, Wall said. He said the GBI is in the process of determining which officer fired which shot.
Neither the GBI nor Warner Robins police have released the names of the officers involved in the shooting. The officers are on paid administrative leave per standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting, and Warner Robins police is conducting an internal investigation in addition to the GBI probe, Tabitha Pugh, public information officer for Warner Robins police confirmed in an e-mail.
Noting the ongoing investigation in his statement, Evans said no other information would be released by Warner Robins police and referred comment to the GBI.
The GBI was asked to investigate at Evans request, Wall said. Gary Moore, an inspector for the GBI assigned to the command staff at GBI headquarters, is charged with conducting the investigation because Wall is currently in GBI training, Wall said.
Rawls brother, Earl Rawls Jr., of Haynesville, said he remains troubled by the shooting of his brother and that officers fired at the home while children were inside.
All of them are taking it hard, Rawls said of the family coping with his brothers death. Its just so out of character for him. We feel like theres more to the story.
Much of what is being asked in relation to the shooting, including what prompted the officers to use lethal force, is what the investigation is focused upon, Wall said.
Wall said he does not expect the GBI to render an opinion as to whether officers acted appropriately in the use of force. Rather, the evidence and interviews collected in the investigation will be forwarded to the Houston County District Attorneys Office to make a determination, Wall said.
The last Warner Robins police officer-involved shooting was in 2009. In that incident, former Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke found the shooting of Reginald Bernard Smith was a justifiable homicide based on review of witness statements, videotapes, audio recordings and police policies.
Burke also had taken the matter before a Houston County grand jury for review. The grand jury, which reported its findings verbally to Burke, determined the use of lethal force was justified.
Smith, 27, died in the parking lot the Waffle House at 1287 S. Houston Lake Road Feb. 6, 2009. He was shot multiple times by two officers responding to a large fight at the restaurant at 2:18 a.m. Smith had a gun and was described by police as an active shooter.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.