Capt. Rusty Blair named Rome police officer of the year

Rome Police Department Chief Denise Downer-McKinney (from left), Capt. Rusty Blair and Assistant Chief Debbie Burnett. / Contributed

The Rome City Commission named police Capt. Rusty Blair the city’s Officer of the Year for his capture of a murder suspect wanted in Bartow County.

“He is one of my best” in a department of exemplary officers, Police Chief Denise Downer-McKinney said during a recognition ceremony at the board’s Monday meeting.

Justin Lee Wade had reportedly shot two people, one fatally, when Bartow County authorities put out an alert the morning of May 17, 2018. And it was thought he was headed to Rome to kill someone else.

Acting on a tip, Blair found Wade near the Ledbetter Interchange and took him into custody without incident.

“A violent murder suspect apprehended without the use of deadly force,” Commissioner Milton Slack said in presenting a proclamation in Blair’s honor. The arrest pointed up Blair’s good judgment and keen powers of observation, Slack added.

Blair joined to the Rome Police Department after a stint at the Georgia Department of Corrections, assigned to Hays State Prison in Trion. He worked his way up through various divisions, from field operations to selective enforcement to a position on the Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force.

Blair was promoted to captain in 2017 and serves as the department’s training director.

“I’ve been given a lot of opportunity since coming to the Rome Police Department,” Blair said, adding that he is grateful for the professionalism of the command staff and his fellow officers.

“So many men and women are more deserving of this,” he said in accepting the proclamation and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Wade was back in Bartow County by the end of the day of the shootings and remains in jail awaiting trial.

He is charged with murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and use of a firearm by a convicted felon during the commission of a crime.

Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap said at the time that deputies called to a shooting on Franklin Drive, off Cassville Road, found one man dead and a seriously injured man trying to run from the scene.

Investigators identified Wade as the suspect and posted a lookout with a warning that he could be headed to Rome.

Within a few hours, Blair had captured Wade and turned him over to Bartow deputies at the county line.

According to the GDOC website, Wade, 33, had been released just two days earlier from Montgomery State Prison, where he had been serving a Floyd County sentence for loitering and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.