A code enforcement officer was shot this afternoon by a resident apparently upset that the city was about to have two junk cars towed off his property, police said.
The shooter then barricaded himself in his house, prompting a standoff with police that stretched into the night.
Police surrounded the home on the north side of town near Lindsey Elementary School and a few blocks off North Davis Drive and were negotiating with the gunman, trying to get him to surrender without further violence.
The 2 p.m. shooting led to nearby streets being closed and Lindsey Elementary being placed on lockdown. Children who normally would be picked up by their parents at the school instead were bused to two churches more than a mile away for pickup. Parents were notified of the developments through the school's automated phone system.
The wounded officer was identified as Beau Weathers, who was listed in stable condition late Wednesday at The Medical Center of Central Georgia.
Weathers, 29, suffered gunshot wounds to the right side of his body and to his face, authorities said. His fiancee, Karley Lamb, said his injuries included fractures to his arm, cheek and shoulder blade.
Weathers, a civilian code enforcement officer, and police Capt. Bill Capps, who heads the city's code enforcement office, had been at the property about 15 minutes when the shooting occurred, Police Chief Brett Evans said.
The officers were at the Ward Street home along with a private towing service to oversee the towing of two junk vehicles from the yard, Evans said.
The occupant of the home, whom police declined to identify, had been served previously with a 15-day notice to remove the cars but had not complied, Evans said.
The chief said the shooting was "totally unexpected," as the code enforcement officers had been working with the owner to resolve the problem.
The shooter came out of the house and fired the shotgun, and the pellets struck Weathers in the face and upper body, Evans said.
Capps did not return fire, he said.
The shooter went back into his house and again came outside, firing another weapon, Evans said, but no one was wounded the second time.
The Houston County Sheriff's Office's SWAT team initially responded to the shooting and aftermath, and later turned the negotiations and stakeout over to the Warner Robins Police Department's SWAT team.
Throughout the hourslong standoff, police attempted to persuade the man inside the home to surrender peacefully.
The man was believed to be alone in the home and had no hostages, police said.
Authorities declined to publicly identify the man because they did not want any of his friends or family members to interfere with their negotiations by trying to contact him.
Weathers' wounds will require multiple surgeries, his fiancee said from the hospital waiting area. Later, he will have extensive corrective surgery to repair bone damage in an eye socket, she added.
Weathers' vision appears to be intact, she said. "He can move his eyes all around, and was able to see," she said.
More than 10 of the officer's family and friends waited outside the emergency room at the Macon hospital throughout the afternoon, including a friend from New York who happened to be in Georgia attending a training session.
Weathers' mother, Karen Weathers, comforted her 6-year-old grandson, Drew, who was in tears about his father's injury.
Weathers joined the code enforcement office in 2004 ago and also works part-time at Cheddar's Casual Cafe on Watson Boulevard, said his mother, who lives in Warner Robins.
Lamb, 18, said she is optimistic about her fiance's recovery and looks forward to their wedding Jan. 24.
"I know he'll be fine. I've just never seen him look like this before," she said. "Our one-year anniversary is tomorrow. Can you believe that?"
Warner Robins Mayor Donald Walker, at the scene of the standoff, said, "This was an isolated incident, not deserving of a knee-jerk reaction," referring to how the city might handle code enforcement in the future.
"We're going to do business as usual," the mayor said.
City Councilman John Williams, elected to the council last fall at least in part on a campaign to clean up rundown neighborhoods and fight crime in the intown areas, echoed the mayor's sentiments.
"This incident just spotlights the severity of the problem," Williams said late Wednesday. "This terrible incident will not deter us from cleaning up our neighborhoods."
In recent months, city officials have beefed up the code enforcement effort, adding two fully certified law enforcement officers to the unit and strengthening their authority to enforce violations of the city code in an effort to address unsightly and dangerous deterioration targeted as breeding grounds for crime.
Beth McLaughlin, director of school and community affairs for Houston County schools, said the school system will follow the advice of the Warner Robins Police Department should the standoff continue into this morning and affect operations at Lindsey Elementary.
"We will contact parents through Lindsey's automated phone system to let them know what our plans are," McLaughlin said.
Neighbors along Ward Street described the man accused in the shooting as somewhat of a recluse.
At the time of the shooting, 25-year-old Nina Leverett was sitting outside her home on the street. "It was just an eruption of shots," she said. "It was like a machine gun or something was going off."
Lisa Dillard, 30, who moved onto the block about a month and a half ago, said she often saw the man sitting on his porch with a rifle on his lap. Whenever she passed by, she said, he would wave.
"He seemed friendly — other than the gun in his lap," Dillard said.
When the gunfire erupted, Dillard said, she rushed outside to see the code enforcement officer down in the middle of the street. Two other men, who she said she thought were with a tow truck sitting in the street, took off, she said.
Apparently, Dillard said, code enforcement officers were at the home to remove at least one of the junk cars that the resident was known for having in his yard.
"I don't think anyone really complained about it," she said. "We didn't have a problem with it."
Hubert Ezell, 82, said he has lived on the street since 1954. He said he had not seen anything like the shooting in all the time that he's been there.
He still considers his neighborhood pleasant enough.
"It ain't all that bad," Ezell said.
Staff writers Ashley Joyner in Macon and Natasha Smith and Jake Jacobs in Warner Robins contributed to this report.
For more on this story, come back later to macon.com or read Thursday's Telegraph.