A Putnam County sheriff’s deputy will not be charged in the shooting death of a man who charged at him with a knife in May.
The decision came from Fred Bright, district attorney for the Ocmulgee Judicial District, who said Deputy Justin Brock was “completely statutorily justified” in shooting Harry Davis, 57, in the chest May 27.
“In fact, all the officers at the scene showed great restraint,” Bright said Tuesday.
According to the incident report, Deputy David Gunter was first on the scene to investigate an argument between Davis and his son, 27-year-old Lonnie Davis, at the corner of Oconee Springs Road and Sparta Highway east of Eatonton. The dispute had been called in by Marquez Davis, who was riding with the other two men when the fight began. Marquez Davis is not related to Harry or Lonnie Davis.
Before Brock and Sgt. Jim Barbee responded as backup, Harry Davis threw a knife at Gunter.
“You’re going to have to kill me,” Gunter reported Harry Davis saying at that time.
Gunter said he was able to talk to Harry Davis after that, and the two men discussed Davis’ post-traumatic stress disorder after a three-year tour in Iraq. Once Brock and Barbee arrived, Gunter went to update Barbee on the situation.
The report states that as Brock stood between the two men, the argument was renewed, and Harry Davis went to the driver’s side door of the Buick Lucerne the three men had been riding in. Gunter went to the front of the vehicle while Brock went to the rear to attempt to subdue Harry Davis.
“I looked through the rear windows and saw the older male was holding a large knife in his hand,” Brock said in his written statement.
The knife was a “large military-style knife” with an open blade, Bright said.
With both Brock and Gunter yelling for Harry Davis to put the knife down, he raised it above his head instead.
“God, please forgive me,” both officers heard him say, the report said.
At that point, Harry Davis charged at Brock, clutching the knife with the blade pointing out of the pinky-finger side of his hand.
“If I was going to stab you, that’s exactly how I’d hold the knife,” Bright said.
When Harry Davis got within 10 feet of Brock, the deputy fired twice. Gunter retrieved Brock’s firearm as Barbee instructed dispatchers to call in EMS and Sheriff Howard Sills.
Sills arrived at the scene and met with the officers before calling the GBI to investigate the incident.
“Lonnie Joseph Davis was extremely intoxicated and disorderly,” Sills noted in the incident report.
Lonnie Davis was later charged with battery, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and three counts of obstruction of an officer for his role in the altercation.
“Dad wanted to die,” he told Deputy Douglas Wyatt, according to the report.
At a June 19 meeting, GBI agents met with Bright and Sills and said that Brock’s actions were justified but added that their report wouldn’t be complete without toxicology results for Harry Davis. Those came back on July 9 and revealed that, in addition to a blood alcohol level above the legal limit of .08, Harry Davis had trazodone and paroxetine, both used to treat depression and anxiety, in his system at his time of death, according to the report that Sills continued to update as new information came in.
This was not the first time deputies responded to a fight between the father and son. On Feb. 20, officers were called to the family’s Rockville Springs Drive residence after an altercation that began in a vehicle spilled into the yard and included Lonnie Davis threatening his father with a hammer, according to a different incident report.
No charges were filed in that episode.
Bright said he met with the Davis family to discuss the decision not to charge Brock in the May shooting.
“We always like to sit down and talk to them face to face,” he said. “In the beginning, I think they were upset, but they understood.”
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or follow him on Twitter@MTJTimm.