Perry hostage situation ends with suicide

bpurser@macon.comMarch 11, 2014 

PERRY -- A police standoff that started as a hostage situation ended early Tuesday when a 24-year-old man shot and killed himself, authorities said.

Perry police were dispatched to a townhouse in the 200 block of Frank Satterfield Road about 1:07 a.m. after Amanda Thompson called 911 to say that Robert Sperry was holding her and her 4-year-old son at gunpoint, said Chief Steve Lynn.

Sperry, whom Thompson described as her “ex-fiancee and roommate,” had threatened to hurt her and her son, Lynn said. She had locked herself in a bedroom.

Perry police Sgt. Brian Mixon initiated negotiations with Sperry. Within the first hour of the standoff, the 25-year-old Thompson was able to lower and drop her son out of a second-floor bedroom window and into the arms of Lt. Chris Sutcliff standing below, Lynn said

At some point after that, Thompson came running out the front door, Lynn said. She and the child were not injured.

The sheriff’s response team, a tactical unit, was called in to help and took over command. The sheriff’s response team arrived after Thompson and the boy were already outside, Lynn said.

Negotiations continued throughout the morning in an attempt for Sperry to surrender himself. Shortly after 6 a.m., authorities heard a gunshot from inside. The sheriff’s response team went in shortly before 7 a.m. and found Sperry dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Lynn said.

The team had gradually entered the home -- not certain what they would find and whether the noise that some, but not all, the officers had heard was indeed a gunshot, Lynn said.

Sperry’s body was found on the second floor.

“It’s obviously something we keep an eye on to see if they need a traumatic incident de-brief,” Lynn said of the impact Sperry’s death may have on responding officers. “That’s standard anytime something like that happens.”

The GBI was called in to investigate the incident since it was handled by Perry police and sheriff’s deputies, Lynn said.

“It’s good to have an independent agency conduct the investigation,” Lynn said.

Next door neighbor Christian Poss and his 15-year-old son were awakened by a knock at the door. They live in the middle of the three townhouses grouped together.

“It’s never a good feeling at 2 a.m.,” said Poss of being summoned to the front door at that hour. “It’s very rarely good news.”

A Perry officer explained the situation and told Poss police needed to evacuate them. Neighbors on the far right had already been evacuated.

Poss said his first thoughts were for the safety of his son, whom police took out first -- with officers keeping him out of the line of potential fire and using their bodies as shields, he said.

Poss next went to his car and then picked up his son. They spent the night at his ex-wife’s home. He said he was very impressed with how Perry police handled the situation and kept him and his son safe.

Poss said he didn’t know Sperry that well and only on a first-name basis. He described Sperry and Thompson as a young couple he’d often seen holding hands. The two were pretty quiet, although they argued, Poss said.

Poss recalled an impromptu gathering among neighbors outside the townhouses July 4th when fireworks were set off, and Thompson’s son played with another neighbor’s daughter. He also recalled another incident a few months ago when police were dispatched to the same townhouse.

Sperry was arrested in connection with that Nov. 17 incident on misdemeanor charges of reckless conduct, discharging a weapon near a roadway and criminal damage to property. He allegedly discharged a firearm outside the townhouse and then another round inside the townhouse during an argument with Thompson, said Perry police Lt. Ken Ezell.

In the police report on the November incident, Thompson identified Sperry as her “ex-fiancee and roommate,” Ezell said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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