Liberty County Sheriff's deputy, CHAMP operator attacked

LIBERTY CO., GA (WTOC) - It was like a switch flipped. That's how the Liberty County Sheriff described a situation involving a deputy and a state worker while they were trying to help stranded travelers.

Part of Protect and Serve for Liberty County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Ashdown Tuesday afternoon was coming to the aid of travelers heading north on I-95.

Deputy Ashdown, along with a Department of Transportation CHAMP operator, handled the call. Sheriff Steve Sikes said his deputy bent over backwards to help the couple, who we now know are Ronald Bryant and Desiree Hamm, out of Jacksonville.

Deputy Ashdown let the couple use his personal cell phone to make a call, even offered to take them to the nearest exit while they waited for a tow truck to arrive.

Hamm got into the deputy's car.

Bryant, out of nowhere, according to the deputy, turned and attacked him.

"Right on the side of the interstate. Broad daylight," said Sheriff Steve Sikes.

While Deputy Ashdown was trying to fight off Bryant, Hamm jumped out of the patrol car and grabbed the deputy's taser. Still nearby, the CHAMP worker saw all of this unfolding and ran to help.

"Thank the good Lord he was there, too. He was on another, assisting another motorist who was broken down, saw what was happening and came over and at least took the taser away from Miss Hamm," said Sikes.

Sheriff Sikes says Bryant also tried to grab his deputy's gun during the attack. Eventually, the deputy and CHAMP worker got the upper hand and held Hamm and Bryant until backup arrived.

"How do you train for that? You don't," said Sikes.

The biggest head-scratcher for Sheriff Sikes is the reason behind the attack. Neither Bryant or Hamm had any outstanding warrants, there wasn't anything illegal in their vehicle, and it wasn't stolen.

"I can't explain it, I don't know what to say," said Sikes.

The Sheriff says he is looking forward to hearing whatever explanation is offered by the two in the courtroom.

Both Desiree Hamm and Ronald Bryant are facing felony obstruction charges, and felony attempt to remove a weapon from a public official. Deputy Ashdown and the CHAMP driver were treated for minor injuries.

Sheriff Sikes said Midway Police, McIntosh County deputies, MCCD units and 911 operators all helped in the response to the attack.

The Georgia Department of Transportation issued the following statement:

The Georgia DOT can confirm that a Coordinated Highway Assistance & Maintenance Program (CHAMP) operator was attacked yesterday while assisting motorists on I-95 in Liberty  County.  At this time, there is an active investigation and we are cooperating fully with law enforcement.  We are thankful that the CHAMP operator was not seriously injured. 

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