Houston & Peach

‘He just shot both of them’: Neighbor recounts fatal shooting of Peach deputies

Arthur and Morgan Jordan’s lazy Sunday afternoon of grilling chicken and ribs was suddenly interrupted when their two nephews reported being threatened by a neighbor with a rifle.

Morgan Jordan called 911.

“I told them that my neighbor put a gun to my nephew’s head, and I asked them could they send an officer out,” she recalled.

It was about to get a lot worse.

Peach County sheriff’s deputies Sgt. Patrick Sondron and Daryl Smallwood were fatally shot after responding to the 911 call about 5:30 p.m. Nov. 6. The Jordans’ neighbor, 57-year-old Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr., is charged with murder.

“He shot ‘em right there behind those bushes,” Arthur Jordan said as he pointed to Eldrod’s front yard through a line of shrubs and trees dividing the properties. “We were standing right here.’’

The Jordans’ three-acre property on Ga. 42 backs up to the side of Eldrod’s property on Hardison Road just a few miles outside of Byron.

The couple had gathered to grill out with friends and family after a death. Their two nephews, both age 20, went out riding a dirt bike and four wheeler.

The nephews suddenly returned with an disconcerting report. Their neighbor, whom the Jordans said they had never met, had pointed a rifle at one of the nephews and threatened them both, Arthur Jordan said.

The nephew who had the gun aimed at him had pleaded with Eldrod.

“Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me,” Arthur Jordan said his nephew told Elrod. “And he had his hands up like this.”

Jordan raised his hands in the air.

After three or four minutes, Elrod turned and went back inside the house, and the nephews hurried back to the Jordans’ home.

Arthur Jordan said he cannot understand what set off Elrod. He said many of the neighbors ride dirt bikes and four wheelers on Hardison Road.

“This back road leads to the power line back where everybody rides — hills, slumps and bumps and everything,” he said.

The Jordans said they did not have any issues with Eldrod. He’d called the city marshal about four months ago to complain that their children poured motor oil out in their own backyard, but that was it, Arthur Jordan said.

Sondron arrived first at the Jordans’ home. Smallwood got there about five to 10 minutes later.

The deputies took statements, and Sondron said they were going to drive over to Elrod’s home and talk to him.

Meanwhile, the Jordans watched from their backyard through the treeline several feet away.

“They got over there, they must have said a couple of words to him ... and like I say, he just shot both of them,” Arthur Jordan said.

Morgan Jordan said they couldn’t hear what was said. She said she did not see the “tussling” because her the treeline partially obscured her view.

“We’d just seen where the two officers fell to the ground,” she said. “We heard the gunshots, and they fell to the ground, and that’s when we took off running.”

With her youngest daughter in her arms, she ran to her car.

“Everybody was out there scattering, hiding,” she said.

Her husband ran to a neighbor’s house to tell them what happened. Her oldest son ran to check on a brother and sister in their house.

“That’s when I called 911 back ... and told them that there was two officers down and to send backup,” Morgan Jordan said.

Byron police officers were the first to arrive in response and immediately came under fire. Jordan said she flagged down officers as they arrived to warn them of the gunfire. Scores of police vehicles lined Ga. 42 in front of her home.

Elrod was wounded in the abdomen by a Byron police officer who was behind a ballistic shield.

Sondron and Smallwood were rushed to local hospitals. Sondron died that night. Smallwood died Nov. 8.

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser