GBI Agent gives update on Peach County deputies shootings
As GBI crime scene technicians neared the end of the third day combing a Byron yard for evidence, authorities decided against releasing videos from Sunday’s deadly assault on Peach County deputies.
“Some of the video is just very disturbing,” J.T. Ricketson, special agent in charge of the Perry GBI office, said Tuesday.
On Monday, Ricketson described images from the videos, which were captured from police dashboard cameras and from surveillance equipment at the home of accused killer Ralph Stanley Elrod, at 148 Hardison Road in Byron.
Elrod had motion-sensitive cameras that activated around his house when Sgt. Patrick Sondron, 41, and deputy Daryl Smallwood, 37, arrived.
Through search warrants, investigators captured the video clips found on Elrod’s equipment, Ricketson said.
Microphones on Sondron and Smallwood recorded audio through the officers’ cameras in the patrol cars.
After a brief conversation, the video shows Elrod wearing an untucked shirt over shorts, and pulling a gun from his waistband before opening fire on the deputies.
“He basically emptied his magazine into the two deputies,” Ricketson told reporters. “I can’t see why he would do that to those officers.”
Once Sondron and Smallwood fell to the ground, Elrod went back in the house for several minutes until Byron police officers arrived.
He came back out wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a rifle.
Dash cameras on those Byron patrol cars captured the gun battle that ended when Elrod was hit in the abdomen by an officer carrying a ballistic shield.
Dozens of officers arrived from surrounding jurisdictions, and agents are trying to identify which officers witnessed the shooting, Ricketson said.
Brittney Biddle, who lives nearby, said her son and daughter heard more than 75 shots.
Biddle returned home just after the shooting to witness the extensive caravan of blue lights and sirens.
They peered over a neighbor’s fence to try to figure out what was going on.
“It’s kind of a shock to the whole community because this is Byron,” Biddle said. “We joke that nothing ever happens here.”
The attack on the officers weighed on the minds of law enforcement officers gathered Monday at the Middle Georgia Regional Crimestoppers luncheon.
Condolences are pouring in from across the nation.
More than 50 rounds from Elrod’s rifle were recovered at the scene, Ricketson said.
Technicians also found that three bullets hit a Byron police car, another hit the house across the street and others were embedded in trees, he said.
The scene has been locked down since Sunday night, and it is expected to remain that way through Wednesday.
GBI digital crime scene specialists from Eastman, Milledgeville and Americus, whom Ricketson called the “best in the state,” have joined the Perry agents on the case.
One of them was recovering at home Tuesday after twisting an ankle and sustaining a hairline fracture Monday when he stepped in a hole, Ricketson said.
Investigators are still piecing together the videos and recordings, including a neighbor’s cellphone video.
What the images won’t show is what Elrod, the father of a Jones County deputy, was thinking when he started shooting.
It was clear the licensed electrical contractor was very upset about people riding a motorcycle and four-wheeler in the neighborhood.
Elrod allegedly pulled a rifle on the riders, which prompted the Peach County sheriff’s initial response.
“It appeared he had gotten himself so worked up and so mad at the guys on the four-wheeler and motorcycle,” Ricketson said.
Elrod remains hospitalized at the Medical Center, Navicent Health, where he is being treated for the gunshot wound and where he was served arrest papers.
His blood was drawn to determine if he was impaired or under the influence of anything Sunday evening.
In the meantime, the community gathered for a prayer vigil Tuesday night before Sondron is laid to rest Thursday after a funeral at Southside Baptist Church in Warner Robins.
Visitation for Sondron will be Wednesday evening at the church. Arrangements are pending for Smallwood, who died Tuesday at the Medical Center, Navicent Health.
Staff writer Becky Purser contributed to this report.