EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Georgia officials are investigating a deputy-involved shooting at the Shyam Food Mart on Highway 80 in Eden, GA.
According to officials, the suspect – 23-year-old Vincent Thompson – had previously sold guns illegally to undercover deputies from the Effingham County Sheriff's Office.
Thompson was shot and transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He was reportedly conscious. The Effingham County deputy was not hit.
"Our deputies made contact with the suspect they have been investigating for the sale of guns," said ECSO Public Information Officer, Gena Bilbo. "The suspect was known to be armed and dangerous. They attempted a takedown. During the takedown, the suspect was shot."
The Effingham County sheriff says his deputies had been looking into Thompson and his operation of selling stolen guns for some time, possibly months. Officers targeted Thompson at the Chevron gas station, saying he was using it as a meeting place to sell more guns. Once he realized officers were onto him, they say he moved in a threatening way, convincing officers he may open fire. A handgun was found lying in the parking lot, but the source hasn't been confirmed.
In addition to trying to make the arrest at the food mart, deputies also conducted a search of Thompson's home where Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie says they found a cache of weapons. In fact, the sheriff said at one point during the interview, it was the most guns he's seen in one place outside of a gun shop.
"I don't even know how many yet. I went over to the house where the search was going on. If there wasn't a gun laying there, there were parts of guns laying there, or ammunition or bullets," Sheriff McDuffie said. "That's probably the most guns I've seen in one place other than a gun dealer."
It was that cache of stolen weapons that the sheriff's office was building their case around, and why they took every precaution Tuesday in Eden.
"We have bought three guns from him. He was supposed to have fully automatic weapons, so we knew that the potential was there. I think today was going to be a buy [and] bust... they were going to buy the gun and take him down here. And before it got to that point, once he found out he was under arrest, all that other stuff started," Sheriff McDuffie said.
GBI used their 3D crime scene mapping device to document the area for their investigation.
"This was a coordinated effort with our agency and our CID to conduct a search warrant and take the suspect into custody today," Bilbo said. "We had several deputies from different areas of our agency."
Mandy Wilson, who works at a BBQ restaurant near the shooting, couldn't believe the suspect was someone she grew up with. She heard about the incident on social media.
As a kid, she rode the bus with Thompson, and he was also her childhood neighbor. They graduated six years ago in the same class.
Wilson said Thompson is not someone she's kept up with over the years but the news was still shocking.
She said she never would she have imagined him doing this.
"You never know what's going to happen," she said. "You never know what they're capable of. You know, like I said, he was a really kind of funny guy so you would never expect him to do something like that. So, it's just kind of like wow, what if that happened when we were in school?"
Other nearby employees did not report hearing any shots, but they did say they lock the doors constantly, go in pairs to take out the trash, and even installed a window that cannot be opened from the outside. They've watched the Dollar General next door be robbed multiple times, and multiple drug deals right outside their window.
The owner says now they even close early at 8 p.m. so they can get out of the area as early as possible.
"It's not really a secret. Everybody knows that. Like he said, you can see stuff going on all night long if you pay attention or if you look out the window," Wilson said.
The Bilbo with the Effingham County Sheriff's Office does say this incident has nothing to do with the area. It's just where they happened to catch Thompson.
Stay with WTOC.com for updates to this story.