Police Kill Suspect Accused of Pointing a Gun at an Unarmed Officer

Police cars surround the area where the shooting took place.
Police cars surround the area where the shooting took place.

A Savannah Chatham Police Officer shot and killed a man who they say stole one of their police cars, grabbed a gun from a police officer and then pointed it at him. It started around 1:30 Sunday morning and ended Sunday afternoon at the corner of Abercorn and Tibet Avenue.

Gun shots brought bowling games at AMF Savannah Lanes to a halt Sunday afternoon after Savannah Chatham Police shot and killed a suspected car thief in self defense. Police Chief Dan Flynn says the man, who has not yet been identified, didn't steal just any car but a Savannah Chatham Police squad car around 1:30 Sunday morning on Abercorn Street.

It happened after the suspect and another man were placed in the back of separate police cars. Police had stopped them for drag racing and were searching their car for weapons. They recovered a gun, but while that was going on, officers believe a pedestrian walking by let one of the suspects out of the car. He then jumped behind the wheel and took off.

Later that day, a tip led officers to the Magnolia Villas apartment complex where they found the car and the suspect. When police confronted him, the man started fighting with Officer Robert Caulford. Caulford chased him into the woods behind the bowling alley; however, when the suspect turned to fight him again, this time he succeeded in taking Caulford's gun away.

Police say what officers did next was an act of self defense.

"The suspect wrestled the gun from the officer and was pointing the gun at him," explained Savannah Chatham Police Chief Dan Flynn. "At that point, the second officer (William McKnight) fired, grazing the individual. The individual turned and pointed the gun. The second officer fired again, striking the individual. He died on the scene."

Police have tentatively identified the suspect; however, they have not released his name. Two police investigations are currently underway. The Violent Crimes detectives are investigating the shooting, while Internal Affairs detectives are looking into the officers' actions. Officer William McKnight has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigations.

Reported by: Melanie A. Ruberti, mruberti@wtoc.com