SCMPD Chief Lumpkin releases statement on officer-involved shooting

SCMPD Chief Lumptein releases statement on officer involved shooting.
Published: Oct. 28, 2015 at 1:18 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 27, 2015 at 2:18 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has released new information about an officer involved shooting in Savannah.

Assistant Chief Julie Tolbert, of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, requested the GBI take over the investigation early Wednesday morning.

GBI officials say their preliminary findings are that just before midnight, on Oct. 27, SCMPD Officers Ruben Colon, Michael Gonzales, Daniel Kang, and John Hauber were conducting a traffic stop near the intersection of 37 Street and Ogeechee Road. The officers stopped a vehicle that was being driven by 25-year-old Tyrie Cuyler. During the traffic stop, Cuyler presented a firearm and shot at the officers.

Officers Ruben Colon and Michael Gonzales were shot during the altercation. Officials say Officer Colon was shot in the left hip and Officer Gonzales was shot in the stomach, and the bullets entered and exited both of the officer's bodies. They were transported to Memorial University Medical Center where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released.

Three of the officers involved were wearing body cameras that captured the incident, according to the GBI.

The officers did return gunfire during the altercation, fatally injuring Cuyler. An autopsy of Cuyler's body will be conducted by the GBI Medical Examiner's Office.

Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Jack Lumpkin believes the officers acted according to policy. He held a press conference at police headquarters Wednesday afternoon, regarding the incident.

The officers were volunteer members of the department's Violent Crime Taskforce, and Chief Lumpkin says the members of that team are among Metro's finest.

The body cameras aren't the end-all-be-all in an investigation like this, but the chief says he does believe the video will reveal the truth of what happened Tuesday night.

"Again, we are saddened by the loss of life, but we know and pray that our officers were in policy and performed heroically to save their own lives," said Chief Lumpkin, SCMPD. "If we don't have the he-said she-said, we can get a good sense of what occurred from the body cameras. And in this instance, we believe the body camera will be instrumental in showing exactly what occurred."

The full statement from the chief is as follows:

"As the SCMPD has revealed in the past and the media has covered during the last 12 months, we have deployed officers in an Anti-Violence Task Force a number of times. Unfortunately, while our brave officers were serving in that high risk deployment, our officers were the victims of the very type of violence they are desperately attempting to protect our citizens from. Four of the brave officers were victims of a violent shooting in which two of the four were senselessly shot.

The two SCMPD officers shot were volunteer members of that Task Force. From a humanistic perspective, in some form, all violence is regrettable. Thus, we are always saddened by the loss of life. But, again, violence in our neighborhoods and community is the very thing the brave men and women who volunteer for this Task Force are trying to prevent and deter.  

Members of this task force are among the SCMPD's finest. Typically, they have volunteered to work long hours beyond their regular work week. They also are working overnight hours and weekends to try to reduce the number of shootings and homicides which are creating fear in our community. They have sacrificed time away from their families to improve our public safety.  

With heartfelt regret we suffer with these officers and the community that cries out for an end to the shootings. In our great country, law enforcement is the only vocation or profession that other citizens intentionally and wantonly physically attack. These men were injured while they were trying to stop violent offenders from preying on others. Despite their injuries, we will not drift from our mission of stopping these senseless shootings in our neighborhoods.

We appreciate the outpouring of support that we have received for these officers, and thankfully they are recovering at home now with their families. 

As you know, it is the SCMPD policy to request the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate officer-involved shootings and use of force incidents. The GBI's investigation is ongoing. This policy that requires GBI to investigate use of force shootings will insure transparency on the part of the SCMPD.  We are confident that the body-worn cameras worn by several of our officers involved in last night's shooting will be instrumental in showing what actually occurred and the real, imminent threat our officers faced."  

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