911 calls, GBI synopsis detail Warner Robins police shoot out

jmink@macon.comMarch 29, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- In some of his last words, Anthony “Tony” Rawls told a 911 operator that he was not holding his wife hostage and would not cooperate with police because he was afraid of losing his job.

That was minutes before police shot the Kathleen man to death on his front porch. Twenty-four shots were fired -- 16 by five police officers and eight from Rawls, according to a GBI synopsis report.

The report and recordings of 911 calls released Friday portray a domestic dispute that began when Rawls, 50, became angry after reading text messages on his wife’s cellphone. His wife, Michelle Rawls, later admitted in a police interview that she was in a relationship outside her marriage, according to the GBI report.

The Telegraph obtained the report and 911 recordings through the Georgia Open Records Act.

Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig ruled the March 10 shooting at 106 Huntwood Lane was justified in a letter released Thursday by the Warner Robins Police Department. Hartwig told The Telegraph he felt police had no choice but to use deadly force.

Michelle Rawls called 911 about 15 minutes before the 8:04 p.m. shooting. She told the operator her husband was threatening her and had a gun. Throughout the conversation, Michelle Rawls could be heard speaking with a man in the background, and the phone on her end hung up a few times. The operator called her back.

Michelle Rawls told the operator several times her husband had a gun and was pointing it down. She also said her husband threatened to shoot her if the police arrived.

“He says if the police are pulling up out here, he’s going to shoot me,” she said. “I don’t need them coming up in my yard because he made that clear.”

At one point, a man’s voice could be heard in the background saying, “When they pull up, you ain’t never seeing nothing else.”

But Tony Rawls consistently denied that he had a gun, telling the operator he did not even own one.

At one point, Michelle Rawls told the operator she needed to call her mother. She later told police her husband had instructed her to call her mom because it would be the last time she spoke to her. When the operator reached the mother, Michelle told her mom that her husband had her at gunpoint and would shoot her if police arrived.

At that point, Tony Rawls got on the phone with his mother-in-law, still insisting he did not have a gun.

“Ain’t nothing wrong with me, Mama,” he said.

In the last few minutes before shots were fired, the 911 operator told Tony Rawls that police were in the area, and he should walk off the porch with both hands in the air. Tony Rawls asked why he needed to do that, insisted he had done nothing wrong and refused multiple times to comply. Tony Rawls said that because his wife called the police, he was going to lose his job as lieutenant with the Department of Corrections at Macon State Prison.

“I’m going to come up with the short end of the stick,” he said after the operator asked him to talk to police to clear up the situation. The last words Tony Rawls can be heard saying are, “Ain’t nobody holding her hostage, here she is,” before handing the phone back to his wife.

Seconds before shots were fired, Michelle Rawls changed her story, telling the operator her husband did not have a gun. She later said she lied to the operator, according to the GBI report, because she was trying to convince her husband to put the gun away before police arrived, and she was hoping he would hide it.

Lt. Don Edwards told the GBI that as police approached the house, he saw a gun come up, and he charged at Tony Rawls, slamming Rawls into a window with his rifle, so Rawls could not shoot his wife, the report stated.

As Edwards and Rawls came back out of the window, Edwards said Rawls started shooting, which is when police opened fire. Police later could be heard on recordings calling for an ambulance and their supervisors.

Edwards, Sgt. Mike Fennell, Sgt. Tim Gray, Officer Juan Garcia and Officer Casey Mullins fired their weapons. Officer Joshua Nobles also responded but told the GBI he did not fire because he never had a chance. He said he had dropped to the ground after Rawls fired, according to the report.

On the other end of the 911 call, the shooting took seconds. Michelle Rawls could be heard speaking and then screaming as a series of shots rang out.

She told police she saw a bullet fly past her and was holding her husband’s hand -- trying to keep him from shooting her -- when she felt it go limp.

“They killed my husband. Oh, God,” she could be heard crying on the 911 recording.

According to the GBI report, there is no video footage of the incident from in-car cameras because the officers had parked along the entrance of the subdivision away from the residence. There were no eyewitnesses.

In addition to Michelle Rawls and the officers, the GBI also interviewed Tony Rawls’ brother, Earl Rawls Jr. Although Earl Rawls did not see the shooting, he believed the first shot was taken from across the street where an officer was. All officers said Tony Rawls fired first.

Earl Rawls expressed concern to the GBI that police did not try to negotiate with his brother. He also questioned why an ambulance was not on the scene from the beginning.

The officers have been released from administrative leave and are back to work. An internal interview is still under way. According to authorities, the GBI’s final report is not complete.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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