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‘A very bad year,’ lawman says of 200% increase in Georgia officer deaths in 2016

Americus police shooting victims were ‘very close friends’

Americus police Chief Mark Scott says the friendship between Americus police officer Nicholas Ryan Smarr and Georgia Southwestern State University campus police officer Jody Smith dated back to their time in high school. Minguell Lembrick, 32, was
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Americus police Chief Mark Scott says the friendship between Americus police officer Nicholas Ryan Smarr and Georgia Southwestern State University campus police officer Jody Smith dated back to their time in high school. Minguell Lembrick, 32, was

At least eight Georgia law enforcement officers died on duty this year, as rural Georgia became an epicenter of violence against police.

“South of the Macon area was hit very hard,” said Frank Rotondo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.

The deaths of Americus police officer Nicholas Ryan Smarr and Georgia Southwestern University campus policeman Jody Smith add to a toll that now represents a 200 percent increase over the past two years, Rotondo stated in a news release extending sympathy to the officers’ families.

“I think this has been a very bad year,” Rotondo said in a phone interview Friday. “Nationwide the numbers are going very high and it’s a real concern.”

Rotondo, who once worked as a homicide detective on New York’s Long Island, was involved in a violent confrontation where the officer next to him was shot.

That officer survived, but not without permanent scars and loss of vision.

Wednesday, Smarr answered a domestic violence call near the campus of Georgia Southwestern and his longtime buddy Smith came to assist.

Both were fatally wounded.

“I understand very fully the courage it takes for officers to do that,” Rotondo said.

Domestic violence calls can be particularly volatile, he said.

“The courageous and selfless response of officers Smarr and Smith was nothing short of heroic,” the news release stated. “They typified the selflessness and the internal steel with which law enforcement officers across the state of Georgia, and nationwide display every day.”

The shooter, Minguell Lembrick, escaped and reportedly committed suicide Thursday morning.

He shot himself in the head as the SWAT team surrounded his hideout, police said.

Support of law enforcement and cooperation from the public is the key to stemming the violence, Rotondo said.

Lembrick might still be at large, he said, and other officers would still be in danger, if it weren’t for the anonymous tipster who led authorities to his location.

Rotondo praised those who extend kindness and compassion to all police officers in the wake of the killings.

Middle and south Georgia have seen a disproportionate amount of law enforcement deaths in 2016.

Bibb sheriff’s investigator T. J. Freeman died in an accident with a fleeing suspect on May 5.

Eastman police officer Tim Smith was fatally shot by a suspect on Aug. 13 and the alleged shooter was arrested in Florida a couple days later.

The Peach County Sheriff’s Office lost two deputies who were fatally wounded on Nov. 6. Sgt. Patrick Sondron and deputy Daryl Smallwood answered a call in Byron about a neighbor allegedly pulling a gun on people riding a motorcycle and four-wheeler.

On Nov. 18, U.S. Marshal Pat Carothers, who was based in Macon, was gunned down in Ludowici while serving an arrest warrant on a man wanted for shooting at police officers in South Carolina.

The national Officer Down Memorial Page also lists Newton County sheriff’s deputy Justin White as an on-duty fatal accident victim on Nov. 15.

Across the country, 137 officers have been killed on duty, which is a 15 percent increase, according to the website.

Of those deaths, 62 officers were killed by gunfire, which is up 72 percent.

Liz Fabian: 478-744-4303, @liz_lines

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