A home invasion suspect found dead in a wrecked get-away vehicle actually died after accidentally shooting himself, police said Thursday.
But that was only part of the peculiar twist and turns that began when gunmen broke into the wrong apartment on Oct. 3 in Clayton County.
In the end an officer and his K-9 unit would end up badly injured in a split patrol car. The county would come under criticism after retiring the K-9.
And on Thursday one of the suspects continue to evade capture after managing to escape the wrecked vehicle during a police chase.
“It’s just one big incident and it started with a home invasion,” Capt. Richard Gandee said.
The five gunmen heard there were drugs inside an apartment complex. But police believe they mistakenly chose the wrong apartment at 406 Fairway Point Drive in Jonesboro.
At least three men kicked in the front door while the other two remained in red Dodge Ram pickup, Capt. Gandee said.
Two of the men immediately ran upstairs where a couple slept.
“One of them ordered the female to get down on her knees, held a gun to her head and threatened to shoot,” Capt. Gandee said. “They demanded money and drugs.”
But there weren’t any drugs or money. The man grabbed a few trinkets and fled, police said.
The men had gotten a quarter of a mile from the complex when an officer responding to the home invasion passed them, Capt. Gandee said. He turned around and pursued the fleeing vehicle. Soon there were two patrol cars pursuing the pickup.
Because of the number of suspects, another officer was on the way to serve as backup.
But Officer Travis Fox never made it. He struck some trees in the median on Point South Parkway, Capt. Gandee said.
“His car was split in half,” Capt. Gandee said. “He’s very lucky.”
Officer Travis was airlifted to the hospital and his K-9 unit Lakota transported to a veterinary hospital for emergency care.
The pursuing officers were several minutes into the chase when they caught up with the pick-up truck in front of Riverdale High School.
The driver had struck a curb before entering the wood line where the pickup struck a tree and overturned. It had bounced off several trees before landing back on the road, Capt. Gandee said.
Three of the suspects got out and ran while two remained in the vehicle. One of them, Mr. Kenneth Fortson, 21, was dead, Capt. Gandee said.
“He was half way out the passenger window,” Capt. Gandee said. “He had shot himself in the right side of the head and the bullet exit the left said. The handgun was in his right hand.”
Police ordered the fifth suspect, 18-year-old Ramon Blalock, out of the vehicle.
“He had to climb out over Mr. Fortson to get out,” Investigator Jeremy Hutto said.
Police caught Mr. Quinton Oliver, 33, as he ran from the scene with a gun still in his hand. Two other guns were found in the pickup, Capt. Gandee said.
The driver, Mr. Denico Hawkins, 34, turned himself in later, the captain said. Police were still searching for Mr. Quentavious Howard, 18, Capt. Gandee said.
Officer Travis was back home after being hospitalized with several broken bones and Clayton County retired K-9 Lakota, police spokesman Officer Eddie Soto said.
Retiring the K-9 meant the county would not be responsible for paying the thousands of dollars required for LaKota’s medical care.
But after many people expressed outraged and officer Fox offered to pay the dog’s medical costs, the county reconsidered its decision.
County Commission Chairman Mr. Eldrin Bell said Tuesday that the county would pay the medical expenses for Lakota’s care at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Officer Fox and Lakota recently reunited at the hospital where three of Lakota’s legs were in casts, and Officer Fox’s face was covered with cuts, Channel 2 Action News reported.
Police charged the driver Mr. Denico Hawkins with armed robbery and burglary; Mr. Ramon Blalock with armed robbery, possession of a handgun during the commission of a crime and burglary; Mr. Quinton Oliver with obstruction of an officer, providing a false name and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Inv. Hutto said. They have issued warrants, charging Mr. Quentavious Howard with armed robbery and burglary, the investigator said.
Police found the stolen items from the home invasion inside the truck, Capt. Gandee said.
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