ATLANTA - The suspect wanted in connection to the shooting of a Banks County deputy Wednesday was killed in a confrontation with law enforcement in the parking lot of a southwest Atlanta strip mall. That is according to an FBI spokesperson who also said one of their agents and a woman were injured in that shootout.
The ordeal happened around 4 p.m. Friday at Holmes Plaza located in the 2400 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive near Peyton Road, nearly 48 hours and 75 miles from where it all began. SKYFOX 5 flew over the southwest Atlanta strip mall before 5 p.m. to find the parking lot surrounding the Checks Cashed business blocked with crime scene tape, and a white van and tan SUV being surrounded by investigators.
"There was a residence nearby that was the focus of the investigation that we were going to serve the arrest warrants on, but the actual confrontation in conjunction with the white van was behind us at this intersection," said FBI spokesperson Special Agent Stephen Emmett.
Investigators worked into the early evening hours going over the white work van, a white mini-van, and a dark brown colored mini-van with a window shot out, all the parking lot of the business. Law enforcement officials appeared to be collecting evidence and logging the scene.
FBI agents said the tan vehicle belonged to the suspect.
"Mr. Richard was wanted for shooting a deputy in Banks County, so he was armed and dangerous. He already fired upon law enforcement and our concerns going into this were pretty high," said Special Agent Emmett.
Emmett said the FBI SWAT team and Atlanta Metropolitan Major Offender task force were assembled to confront the suspect, identified by investigators as Avery Richard, 32, of Atlanta.
"Gunfire came from the white van and agents returned fire into the van," said Emmett.
"You know I heard them say something about 'get out' and 'get down' and they started opening fire," said witness Richard Davis. "It happened so fast, my partner, he took off running."
"He did fire upon the agent and return fire killed him and struck another individual, a female, age 32," said Emmett.
Authorities said the male agent, whose name has not yet been released, was shot in the arm and was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital. He is expected to recover from his injury.
In a touching post on the Banks County Sheriff's Office's Facebook page, Sheriff Carlton Speed wrote that, after visiting the injured agent at the hospital, he is praying for "all the people who lost in this painful situation."
The woman was also taken the hospital for treatment. Investigators would not say what her relationship was to Richard, but said she was "not a target of the arrest warrant." Her name and condition were not known Friday evening.
"It is unfortunate things turned out that way. We're glad our agents and officers are going home, but Mr. Richard unfortunately chose to respond to law enforcement in this manner and ended up deceased," said Emmett.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said law enforcement has been tracking Richard's movements since an attempted robbery and kidnapping at the Atlanta Dragway Wednesday afternoon. Banks County Sheriff Carlton Speed said deputies found deputies spotted the vehicle stolen from the location and tried to make an arrest in the parking lot of the Tanger Outlets. Instead, the sheriff said the man opened fired, shooting one of his deputies, recovering only by the grace of his ballistic vest, before running across Interstate 85 and into a residential area.
The GBI said about two miles from the shopping complex, the man kidnapped a woman at gunpoint and forced her to drive him to Atlanta. She sustained minor injuries during the incident.
"Mr. Avery Richard came up throughout the course of the investigation," said Nelly Miles, spokesperson for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. "Within the past 24 hours we received source information that allowed us to follow up on specific aspects."
Miles said she could not go into details about the source and explained a timeline of events over the past 72 hours were still being pieced together by investigators, but she did express relief on behalf of all law enforcement officers in Georgia.
"This is a huge, huge relief. As you know, this impacted many parts of the state: the Commerce area, Banks County, Jackson County was involved and now metro Atlanta. So, everyone was on high alert and concerned. This is a huge sigh of relief," said Miles.
The GBI said Richard is known to the law enforcement community in metro Atlanta and has an extensive criminal history. Records obtained by FOX 5 News from the Fulton County Superior Court shows Richard faced charges of carrying a concealed weapon onto a bus, armed robbery, and aggravated assault with the intent to rob stemming from a 2004 arrest. Two years later, he was charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault with the intent to rape, aggravated sodomy and family violence battery. Georgia Department of Corrections' records show Richard served 10 years Smith State Prison for the crime and was released this past October. The GBI's Sex Offender Registry shows Richard's last registered address in Dunwoody.
By mid-evening, the investigation had moved to a home in the 2600 block of Oldknow Drive in northwest Atlanta. FBI and Atlanta police detectives were seen raiding the home. Investigators did confirm the two scenes are related.
"Our priority was with the other scene. We had an agent shot and wounded, and an individual who was shot and killed, and one of his passengers that was severely wounded, so our priorities were over there. That is still an active crime scene that is being a processed, but our agents came over here to execute this federal search warrant," said Emmett.
Investigators said the home is a relative of Richard. Neighbors said they saw Richard at the home earlier in the day.
Authorities were offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a man accused of shooting and wounding a sheriff's deputy in northeast Georgia. It is unclear as of late Friday evening if anyone would be eligible to collect the reward.