Crime

Americus cop killer’s sister says he ‘didn’t have hate in his heart for no one’

Lembrick was a ‘very dangerous individual,’ says GBI Director

GBI Director Vernon Keenan described Americus police shooting suspect Minguell Lembrick as having a long criminal history. The 32-year-old was suspected of shooting Americus police officer Nicholas Ryan Smarr and Georgia Southwestern State Univers
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GBI Director Vernon Keenan described Americus police shooting suspect Minguell Lembrick as having a long criminal history. The 32-year-old was suspected of shooting Americus police officer Nicholas Ryan Smarr and Georgia Southwestern State Univers

Two days before the police say he shot and killed a pair of police officers at an Americus apartment complex there in the Sumter County town where he grew up, Minguell Kennedy Lembrick strolled out of the local Wal-Mart.

With him was his 3-year-old son.

Lembrick, also the father of two daughters, had just bought the boy a toy truck.

Lembrick’s sister, Lakesha Tyson, who works at the store, recalled the scene that day, how seeing her oft-troubled brother seemingly doing the right thing brought a smile to her face. Maybe he was turning his life around.

“It just brought joy to my heart,” Tyson said.

In the wake of the tragedy that unfolded on Wednesday morning, less than 48 hours after that visit to Wal-Mart, the poignant moment Lembrick shared with his little boy was all but shattered.

Officials have said that Lembrick, 32, went on the run, hiding out after shooting Americus police officer Nick Smarr and officer Jody Smith of the Georgia Southwestern State University campus police. As authorities closed in on him Thursday morning, Lembrick committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

Tyson, 38, the youngest of Lembrick’s five sisters, said she knew the slain policemen from seeing them shopping at Wal-Mart.

“I spoke to them, they spoke to me,” she said Friday. “We didn’t know each other personally, but from the looks of things they were some OK guys. ... I’m sorry for their families.”

Lembrick had run afoul of the law in Peach and Laurens counties, and in his hometown. He was convicted of trespassing, battery, false imprisonment and criminal interference with government property. He went to prison for about a year in 2009.

“In growing up, he had some struggles in life,” his sister said. “And, you know, that’s not something that no average person really doesn’t go through being black in a small town like this.”

She added: “He didn’t have hate in his heart for no one. I know that.”

Americus police Chief Mark Scott says an anonymous tip led law enforcement officers to the house where shooting suspect Minguell Lembrick hid. A manhunt for Lembrick ensued following a shooting that led to the death of Americus police officer Nich

‘A career criminal’

In the hours after the police officers were shot, with Lembrick at large, investigators scoured his criminal past for any hints of where he might be hiding or who, if anyone, might be harboring him.

GBI Director Vernon Keenan told reporters of Lembrick’s 32-page rap sheet, which begins with property crimes, thefts and the like, and progresses on up to arrests for aggravated assault, stalking and obstruction of police.

“His criminal history shows an escalation toward violence,” Keenan told The Telegraph on Saturday. “He was a career criminal.”

In the fall of 2008, Lembrick was implicated as being what one law enforcement official describes as “the mastermind” of a middle-of-the-night stickup at a roadside shopping mart in Peach County.

The holdup happened at Night Owl Gift & Games, a game room just west of the main Warner Robins exit off Interstate 75 on the south side of Byron.

As Peach Sheriff Terry Deese recalls it, two women who worked there were held at gunpoint while Lembrick robbed the place.

“The women were not in any way resisting him and he still chose to hit one of them with the pistol,” Deese said. “That speaks kind of to his character.”

Lembrick was later arrested and locked up at the county jail, and while Lembrick was behind bars, Deese said, “He was always creating problems.”

Asked to elaborate, the sheriff said, “He was mean.”

‘I don’t know why’

When Tyson, Lembrick’s sister, first learned of the bloodshed and that her brother had caused it, she was in shock, speechless.

“I couldn’t think. I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I didn’t know where to go, didn’t know who to call.”

She said Lembrick, one of six brothers, went to high school in Americus but didn’t graduate. He liked to cut people’s hair and at one time had aspirations of becoming a barber.

Tyson can’t explain what happened Wednesday morning, or fathom what might have made her brother open fire on the police officers.

“I don’t know why this incident turned out like it did. ... It’s just sad,” she said. “Everybody’s lost someone. People have lost fathers, they lost brothers, sons. It’s sad.”

She has heard talk that her brother had spoken of not wanting to go back to prison, but she isn’t so sure.

“I’m hearing a lot of different things. … I’ve asked myself why ever since it happened,” Tyson said. “I wish I’d got a chance to talk to him so he can tell me why.”

The suspect wanted in the shooting of two Georgia police officers is now dead. SWAT teams surrounded the location where they believed Minguell Lembrick was hiding on Thursday. Sumter County Coroner Greg Hancock confirmed Lembrick was dead inside t

Joe Kovac Jr.: 478-744-4397, @joekovacjr

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