Second Americus officer dies, manhunt ends in suspect’s suicide

A second police officer shot Wednesday while responding to a domestic call in Americus has died.

Georgia Southwestern State University campus policeman Jody Smith died about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, according to a GBI news release.

Smith was flown by helicopter to the Medical Center, Navicent Health, on Wednesday after he was wounded in an assault that killed Americus Police Officer Nicholas Ryan Smarr.

Smith died hours after the man wanted in the shootings, 32-year-old Minguell K. Lembrick, was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A tip called in to the Americus Police Department about 10 a.m. Thursday led authorities to Lembrick. Authorities found his body in a house on Allen Street, just three miles from where the officers were shot.

A SWAT team surrounded the perimeter of the house and neighbors were temporarily evacuated to a hotel, Americus Police Chief Mark Scott said at a news conference.

“FBI hostage negotiators tried to make contact,” Scott said, adding the suspect did not respond over the hour-long standoff. “The SWAT team used a robot to try to open the door ... to see what was going on inside the house.”

Lembrick apparently had committed suicide.

GBI Director Vernon Keenan said Lembrick was “a very dangerous individual.”

“He was a convicted felon, and he had a criminal history record of 32 pages,” Keenan said at the news conference. “This community came together. They worked with law enforcement, and they contributed to a reward fund, which led us to where he was at.”

The reward offered for information leading to Lembrick’s arrest more than tripled as the manhunt ensued. The original $20,000 offered by the GBI grew to $70,000 as other agencies chipped in.

Lembrick’s extensive criminal record includes a 2009 conviction in Laurens County on an interference with government property charge. The Peach County Sheriff’s Office posted on its Facebook page that Lembrick also had committed an armed robbery there in 2008.

He had an active warrant for kidnapping and other charges at the time of the shooting, officials told reporters.

When the pair of lawmen responded to a 911 call about a domestic dispute at apartments on South Lee Street in Americus Wednesday, “there was clear evidence that violence had taken place,” Scott said. “The victim and her child were there. ... They were able to get her out afterward and get her to a safe place.”

About 10 minutes before the officers were shot, a Facebook account for “Minguell GStreet Lembrick” posted, “Love ya, Nikki brown. I tried to stay out to get ya (expletive) happen...other life gone not going to jail.”

An hour after the shooting, a man who appeared to be Lembrick posted a four second video, saying only, “I’m gonna miss y’all folks, man.”

Police have not said what may have prompted Lembrick to shoot the lawmen, but Scott said the encounter was captured on Smarr’s body camera.

“We had a discussion this morning about the process to release that,” Scott said. “It’s evidence, and the GBI will work through that.”

Early Thursday, Americus police and Georgia State troopers escorted Smarr’s body to the GBI Crime Lab in Macon.

The flag outside the building on Riggins Mill Road was flying at half-staff.

“We’re lowering this flag too often,” lab director Brian Hargett said after the office staff stood at attention as Smarr’s body passed by.

‘Very close friends’

Smith, 26, and Smarr, 25, graduated from Americus-Sumter County High School together in 2009. Three years later, the lawmen graduated from the police academy and went to work.

Smith had just started working as a campus police officer in August after working for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and Plains Police Department. Smarr had been with the city police department since 2012.

“Nick and Jody were very close friends,” Scott said. “They initially worked together. Their career paths took them in different directions. Their career paths brought them back into the same town of Americus.”

Americus police officers were en route to help Smarr handle the domestic dispute call. Scott said Smith “took it upon himself to respond and back up his friend.”

“I can’t say enough about them,” Scott said. “They are model officers. They’re both heroes in my opinion. They were there together, they were there together through it. Even after the shooting, they were together.”

Telegraph writer Liz Fabian contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of Minguell Lembrick.

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor

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