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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Midway, Georgia 03/23/2010

A rampage by a homicidal/suicidal man was foiled by a coordinated effort from officers, deputies, and troopers.

August 20, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

Rich and a deputy to Rich's right fired another volley, as did others from each of the law enforcement agencies present.

Struck in the head and upper torso, Gordon fell.

For a few seconds Rich and the other officers retained cover, evaluating the situation. When repeated commands failed to elicit either compliance or any threatening movement, Rich joined other law enforcement personnel in advancing on Gordon's position.

They disarmed the downed man and, as other officers began administering first aid, Rich approached the driver's side of Gordon's car to clear the vehicle for any additional threats. Propped up against the A-post of the open driver's door: A semi-automatic shotgun.

Seizing the shotgun, Rich peered into the driver's side window. The only thing inside was a framed picture on the passenger side seat. It showed a woman and child.

Shortly thereafter, EMT personnel took over trying to revive Gordon. Despite their efforts, he died at the scene.

Post-Mortem

In the aftermath of the shooting, it was determined that Gordon had a prosthetic arm, which made maneuvering his vehicle during his singular act of communication with authorities-the hand gesture through the rooftop-something of a surprise. The fact that he took the time to place a handgun in that prosthetic offers additional insight into his frame of mind at the end of the chase and his determination to force the hands of assembled officers.

Law enforcement and civic officials agreed that a great many things went right that day. Communication was excellent: Information was continually and rapidly relayed from the family and on-site detectives to all involved agencies-Midway PD, Liberty County SO, and the Georgia State Patrol. Rich asserts that this, in particular, was critical to a successful outcome.

"If all the agencies weren't on the same page, an unsuspecting officer may have unwittingly made a traffic stop of the subject and walked up on a death trap. Fortunately, communication throughout this incident was the best I'd seen in a long time and everyone knew of the threat that was in the area and conducted themselves accordingly."

He also cited Ralph Dixon's discipline upon observing Gordon's vehicle.

"Dixon didn't rush things. He took his time and was very selective as to how to follow and when to engage. Collectively, we knew we were dealing with a suicidal man who was armed and we didn't want him getting into a populated area."

Given all that went right, Rich notes that things could have gone very differently. "Considering that our agencies don't routinely train together, we worked well together throughout the incident. The only real problem was the boxing maneuver.

"From an officer safety standpoint, it's an inherently dangerous act," Rich continues. "But bear in mind the area that he was approaching included the children's daycare center, and we were more concerned about keeping him from getting to a point where he could endanger innocent kids. Even then, officers made sure not to pull up directly next to the suspect and expose themselves to his fire or put themselves in a crossfire with one another. And the moment we believed that he wasn't going to be such a threat, we backed off. Sometimes you're forced to make a tactically risky decision on behalf of the community. Fortunately, it worked out."

Rich also notes that the shooting acted as a catalyst for change within Midway.

"Individually, we were outgunned," he explains. "Had we not had the number of deputies on scene at that end of the county, it could have been a very bad situation, especially given the types and number of firearms the suspect had at his disposal and that he'd assumed a tactical advantage in taking the high ground."

The Gordon incident has spurred the Midway city council to approve the requisition of rifles for the town's patrol cars.

"The shotgun is perhaps the most versatile weapon in law enforcement," says Rich. "But it's not for all situations. Whether or not you're dealing with conventional pellets or slugs, it's not as accurate as a rifle platform where you can literally pinpoint your shots."

But as to the motivation for Gordon's violent outbursts throughout the day?

It, like the significance of the picture that rode shotgun with Gordon on his ill-fated country drive, remains a mystery. 

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Tags: Shots Fired, Domestic Disputes, Georgia, Agency Cooperation


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