By Joe Johnson
A man who terrorized people at an eastside park Sunday morning was shot and killed by officers after the man carjacked a vehicle in the parking lot of Virginia Walker Park off Trail Creek Street.
According to an Athens-Clarke County police news release, as officers were responding to the park at about 10:40 a.m., police received an additional call that the man had carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint inside the park.
When officers made contact with the man in the stolen vehicle, he reportedly got out while holding the gun and began making demands.
“Officers gave multiple commands for the subject to put his weapon down,” according to the release. “Despite these requests the subject did not comply. At one point, shots were fired. The subject was struck and was later pronounced deceased at the scene.”
The news release noted that no officers were injured.
Police are investigating to see if the man was the same person who walked around an area near the park holding a rifle Saturday evening.
Police said they were notified at 5:19 p.m. that the man was walking around Vine Street and trying to get into altercations with strangers while holding the gun.
As officers searched for the man, police said they received a call from Walker Park concerning a male shooting at a female in her car, according to the release. The female, who was not injured, fled the area and met with officers.
Police said they closed the park and officers made an extensive ground search, with the aid of a K-9 unit and aerial drones but were unable to locate the male
The police release did not mention an apparent armed robbery that occurred at Walker Park prior to the carjacking and fatal shooting.
However, a 28-year-old woman who was with her two young sons during the incident told Classic Citty News that at about 10:20 a.m. she was seated under an umbrella near the park’s splash pad where her children were playing when she saw a man come from the back of the park or from the woods
According to the woman, the man was talking to himself and appeared unkempt. As he approached her, the woman said she noticed that the man was holding a gun with an extended magazine, which he concealed with a camouflage jacket that was draped over the weapon.
He reportedly asked the woman two times, “Are you throwing gang signs?”
“He was saying things that didn’t make sense and he pointed the gun at me,” she said, “I was staring down the barrel of a gun and praying I didn’t get shot.”
The witness said the man, who appeared to be in his late 30s, then went to where two teenage boys were minding a cash box at the entrance to the splash pad area and robbed them of the box at gunpoint.
The woman said she warned others in the park about the armed man and called 911.
The woman said that when officers arrived, the man went up a hill toward a parking lot, pointing the gun at people along the way.
After officers arrived, they went toward where the man had gone and then three gunshots rang out, the woman said.
The witness did not know what happened next because the police cleared everyone from the park.
“Those teens at the entrance were petrified and all the kids there were scared,” she said. “One of my sons said to me, ‘Mommy, I don’t ever want to come back to this park again.’”
The police were withholding the deceased man’s identity pending notification of his next of kin.
The officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave pending a preliminary review of the incident.
In accordance with department policy, ACCPD requested that the Georgia Bureau Investigation conduct an independent investigation of the shooting.
Police asked for anyone with information to contact Capt. Christopher Nichols at (762) 400-7161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.