News conference on shooting

Walker County sheriff Steve Wilson speaks to reporters during a news conference Monday, Sept. 28. From left: GBI assistant special agent Joe Montgomery, Wilson, and GSP Post 41 Lt. J.D. Stultz. (Messenger photo/Josh O’Bryant)

The man killed by police on Sept. 27 had a history of domestic violence and raised a rifle in a “threatening manner” when confronted by law enforcement officers, Walker County sheriff Steve Wilson said.

Wilson provided this information and other details of the fatal standoff during a Sept. 28 news conference (video) that was also attended by members of the the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Georgia State Patrol Post 41.

Joining Wilson were GBI assistant special agent Joe Montgomery, Georgia State Patrol Post 41 Sgt. J.M. McConnathy and GSP Post 41 Lt. J.D. Stultz.

“These are all of the agencies either involved with the shooting or investigating the shooting,” Wilson said.

The shooting occurred on Cochran Drive in Rossville, shortly after Christopher Shell, 44, was involved in a physical domestic dispute with his live-in girlfriend.

A friend of the victim called Walker County 911 to report the dispute, which led to deputies, along with Georgia State Patrol Post 41 and Walker County Emergency Services, being dispatched to 25 Cochran Drive at 8:33 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27.

“The female victim had left the primary residence and had went across the street to a friend’s house,” Wilson said.

Initially, two deputies arrived at about 8:45 p.m. and met the assault victim who had bloodstains on her shirt and had visible facial injuries.

The officers reported the victim was crying, screaming, emotionally upset, and disheveled. She also told the deputies that she had been beaten unconscious by her roommate, her boyfriend, Wilson said.

At this point, EMS was called to the scene to treat the victim.

While EMS medics treated the victim, Wilson said his deputies went across the street to talk with Shell.

“The deputies announced multiple times who they were, what the purpose of being at that home were, and while on the front porch, one of the deputies was able to look through the front window and saw the suspect inside in a sitting position with what he believed to be a rifle with a scope on it,” Wilson said. “At this point, he notified the other deputies and the other officers that were arriving that the suspect was armed with a rifle.”

The deputies retreated first to a private vehicle on the property and then to a patrol vehicle parked in the street.

As events unfolded, the deputies asked for assistance.

“We are thankful that the Georgia State Patrol and the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department responded and came to assist the Walker County Sheriff’s Office,” Wilson said.

Shell refused multiple commands to come out of the residence, and at one point told deputies he was taking a shower and he would be out later, the sheriff said.

Wilson said the victim was taken away for her safety and transported for medical treatment.

“Shortly thereafter, the suspect came to the door, opened the door in a partial opening, smoking a cigarette in one hand and appeared to look out and scan the landscape in front of him, in front of the house, and quickly closed the door and went back inside,” Wilson said.

Verbal commands continued for Shell to put down the weapon, exit the residence, and give himself up.

Eventually, Shell came out onto the porch with the rifle with a scope, “raising the rifle in a manner that the officers perceived was a threatening manner,” Wilson said.

Sheriff’s deputies and GSP troopers responded to the threat with force, firing on the suspect and disabling him, Wilson said.

When the scene was safe, aid was given to Shell who was later determined to be have died at the scene, Wilson said.

Authorities determined Shell was holding a .50-caliber muzzle loading rife with a scope.

An autopsy is planned for Tuesday morning, Sept. 29, at the GBI Crime Lab in Decatur.

Deputies involved in the shooting include C.A. Black, J.C. Wooten and R.C. Galyon, all of whom have been placed on paid administrative leave to rest and recuperate while the investigation continues.

This is his department’s standard practice for officers after witnessing a death. Counseling for the deputies will be provided as well.

GSP first class troopers involved in the shooting include J.L. Gass, S.L. Poteet and J.W. Ballard, all of whom have been placed on paid administrative leave as well.

Wilson said Shell had a history of domestic family violence involving the female victim, as well as a history with alcohol and drugs.

Special agent Montgomery said that until the toxicology report is complete it is not known if Shell was intoxicated during the dispute,.

Montgomery said the officers fired multiple shots and Shell was hit multiple times.

Montgomery said there is no evidence that Shell fired his weapon into the air prior the officers’ shots.

The sheriff said his officers did what they are trained to do and rose to the occasion.

Wilson thanked Catoosa County sheriff Gary Sisk for stepping in for him that evening as he was out of town.

“Our mission here is to provide a safe quality of life for the citizens who live here,” Wilson said. “We never know what we are going to face when we put on that badge on.”

Josh O'Bryant is a reporter for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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