DA: Shooter to be charged with murder in killing of 2 Peach deputies
Peach County deputy Daryl Smallwood, who was shot in the line of duty, died late Tuesday afternoon.
Smallwood and Sgt. Patrick Sondron were fatally wounded while responding to a call near Byron Sunday night.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of deputies Sondron and Smallwood,” Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke said during a news conference.
Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr. already has been charged with murder in Sondron’s death. He faces aggravated assault charges for shooting Smallwood, but Cooke said he expects those charges to be upgraded to murder.
Elrod is accused of opening fire on the deputies as they tried to talk to him about a complaint that he had threatened a neighbor’s nephews. The nephews had been riding a four-wheeler and motorcycle up and down Hardison Road in front of Elrod’s home near Byron, according to the GBI.
Elrod, a licensed electrical contractor and father of a Jones County sheriff’s deputy, also has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault for firing on three Byron police officers, Cooke said.
The Byron officers were first to arrive among a host of law enforcement agencies responding to help the deputies.
Byron police officer Wesley Griffis, who advanced behind a ballistic shield on a rifle-firing, bulletproof-vest-clad Elrod, acted appropriately in the use of force, Cooke said.
“Although the GBI has not submitted its final report on this shooting, the evidence collected — including multiple witness interviews, crime scene analysis and videorecorded evidence of the incident — leads to one inescapable conclusion: Officer Griffis acted lawfully at the time of the incident,” Cooke said.
“Because the evidence regarding this officer’s conduct is so clear and convincing, he will not be charged for his use of force in this incident,” Cooke said.
Elrod remained hospitalized Tuesday at the Medical Center, Navicent Health.
Cook said he learned that Smallwood had died there shortly before the 5 p.m. news conference at the Bibb County Courthouse.
Sondron was rushed to the Medical Center of Peach County and pronounced dead Sunday night after efforts to revive him failed.
Tributes are planned for the slain deputies.