When Bibb County deputies were pursuing a suspicious vehicle Thursday morning, Investigator Anthony “TJ” Freeman came to help.
As he headed east on Columbus Road about 3 a.m., the suspect’s car slammed into the driver’s side of Freeman’s patrol car, sending him and his K-9 partner spinning into the brick porch of a nearby house near Grosso Avenue.
The force of the impact fatally injured the 29-year-old Freeman, who was a “deputy’s deputy,” according to his boss, Bibb County Sheriff David Davis.
“He wanted to protect his fellow deputies,” Davis said. “He passed away from us doing what he loved ... to protect and to serve the citizens of this community. He’s a hero.”
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Freeman was a seven-year veteran of local law enforcement.
The former Macon police officer, who transferred to the Sheriff's Office with consolidation in 2013, was a narcotics investigator for the past five years. The K-9 handler and SWAT team member was poised to become a training instructor.
A few hours after midnight, deputies trolling west Macon’s streets looking to intercept burglars and thieves noticed a suspicious vehicle near the Serena Wholesale Foods in the Bloomfield Village off Eisenhower Parkway.
“Because of the recent burglaries and entering autos we’ve had here in the recent weeks, investigators attempted to stop the vehicle and see what was going on,” Lt. Randy Gonzalez, a Bibb public affairs officer, told media gathered at the accident scene.
The driver, later identified as Martavius Taquan Kinder, 24, sped off and investigators pursued, calling for additional deputies to assist.
Freeman answered the call and was going east toward town on Columbus Road. Kinder’s Toyota Camry darted out from Buena Vista Drive and broadsided Freeman’s black Dodge Magnum, which crashed into the front porch of 2882 Columbus Road.
The small station wagon smashed a pillar and scattered yellow bricks in the yard.
Other officers on the scene radioed for help, and rescuers freed Freeman from the car.
About 3:20 a.m., patrol cars with wailing sirens escorted the ambulance up Montpelier Avenue through Mercer Village. Other deputies blocked intersections to speed their colleague to the Medical Center, Navicent Health, where Freeman was pronounced dead in the emergency center.
He leaves behind his wife, Jessica, and their two children, Braden, 11, and Blaiklyn, 6.
Freeman’s drug dog was in the car but did not appear to be injured, Gonzalez said. Bojar is being evaluated by a veterinarian to be sure he did not suffer internal injuries.
Kinder was treated at Coliseum Northside Hospital for minor injuries. He was booked into the Monroe County Jail, charged with pre-existing warrants. Other charges are pending, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.
The Georgia State Patrol is investigating the accident. The Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team kept the street blocked until noon as investigators took measurements and documented the position of the cars.
As firefighters swept debris from the pavement, solemn investigators and deputies gathered around Freeman’s car to make sure all the evidence was preserved before tow trucks carted off the vehicles.
A chaplain visited the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center to comfort the grieving.
Davis said in a statement: “Our hearts are heavy today as we lost one of our own, but we grieve especially for Jessica, Braden and Blaiklyn. TJ was a very involved father, and we know this will be very, very hard for his young family.”
About 8 a.m. Thursday, Bibb deputies lowered the flag to half-staff at the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center in Freeman’s honor.
“He truly is someone to be respected and to be mourned and remembered as someone who truly gave his all to protect both this community and his fellow deputies,” Davis said.