'He is deceased,' GBI agent says of shooter of Byron cops
A Crawford County man was shot and killed Monday after he allegedly fired a shotgun at police officers who were serving a search warrant in a drug case.
About eight officers working with the Peach County Drug Task Force were dressed in protective gear as they went to the home of Rainer Tyler Smith, 31, at 6750 Ga. 42 South shortly after 2 a.m., said J.T. Ricketson, of the GBI.
“No one came to the door, so they made entry, and as soon as they made it inside, one of the occupants started shooting,” said Ricketson, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Perry office.
The drug unit was “serving a knock and announce” drug warrant with help from the Peach County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team, according to a release from the Byron Police Department.
Two Byron police officers, James Wynn and William Patterson, were wounded — not seriously — when Smith allegedly fired at least two shots from a pistol-grip shotgun. Police returned fire, hitting Smith multiple times.
He died at the scene inside the boxy, 1,300-square-foot house, which sits on 3 acres of land roughly halfway between Byron and Roberta.
A law enforcement official familiar with the case told The Telegraph that authorities learned that Smith may have been selling marijuana out of the house and that he might have been growing marijuana plants there.
“But apparently those had been harvested,” the official said.
Smith’s girlfriend and newborn baby also were at the house when police officers made their way in, but the two were not hurt in the exchange of bullets.
Ricketson said officers went in through the back door, but Smith’s body was in the front of the house, near the front door.
After a knock on the door, members of the task force, which includes officers from Peach and Crawford counties, Byron and Fort Valley, announced themselves, according to the preliminary investigation, Ricketson said.
The wounded officers were taken to Medical Center, Navicent Health.
Byron police Lt. Bryan Hunter said Wynn underwent surgery for injuries to his upper left arm and “is expected to make a full recovery.”
Wynn, a five-year veteran who was with Byron police for three and a half years, was shot once in the vest and in the arm.
Hunter said Patterson, also wounded in the left arm, was treated and released.
Patterson has been in law enforcement for three years, with the last two months on the Byron department.
Ricketson said Smith lived at the house with his girlfriend and their month-old child.
Smith was known to area law enforcement officials, but details about his past arrests, which date to 2003 in Houston, Peach and Crawford counties, were not immediately available.
After Monday’s shooting, GBI agents locked down the scene along the highway and secured search warrants for the property.
They interviewed officers and collected bullets and guns to determine which weapons were fired.
Officers from multiple jurisdictions are assisting in the case, including Bibb County, which sent officers to help Byron police during the investigation.
Just last month, officers swarmed on Byron after two Peach County deputies, Patrick Sondron and Daryl Smallwood were fatally wounded.
“I drove right past the other scene to get here,” Ricketson said Monday.
Crawford County sheriff’s Capt. Johnny Cleveland said no officers from his department were involved, although all law enforcement is affected by the officer shootings that are becoming much more frequent.
“I guess it’s a sign of the times,” Cleveland said.
Ga. 42 was closed briefly after the shooting.
Crawford County Sheriff Lewis Walker said it has been a tough year for law enforcement in Middle Georgia, where several officers have been shot and killed.
“We just truly thank the men and women who suit up every day and perform their duties in their respective communities,” he said.
Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke visited the crime scene Monday morning.
Byron Police Chief Wesley Cannon called Cooke shortly after the shooting and the GBI was brought in to take the lead in the investigation, which has been standard procedure in the circuit since Cooke took office.
“Really what I’m looking at is just to make sure that no laws were violated,” Cooke told reporters. “That’s my job as DA to make sure that everyone followed the law in executing the search warrant and in the course of the shooting.”
Cooke would not elaborate on the warrant that led to the raid.
The Byron Police Department called on its Facebook friends to put up blue light bulbs to show support for law enforcement throughout Peach County.
“Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness,” the post stated.
Telegraph writers Laura Corley and Joe Kovac Jr. contributed to this report.