CONYERS - A Rockdale County Sheriff's Office deputy fatally shot a suspect who attempted to flee during a traffic stop early Tuesday morning, according to Sheriff Jeff Wigington.
The deputy allegedly fired his weapon at the suspect while being dragged by his vehicle approximately 800 feet.
Wigington said the officer noticed a suspicious vehicle at about 4 a.m. in the parking lot of Mellow Mushroom at the intersection of Ga. Highway 20 and Ga. Highway 138.
The sheriff said when the deputy turned around to check on the vehicle, the driver turned on his headlights and pulled out of the restaurant, headed north on Ga. Highway 138 and then turned in the direction of Old Salem Road.
The deputy made the traffic stop as the suspicious vehicle approached the intersection of Old Salem Road and Old Salem Drive near the Old Salem Estates subdivision.
"The deputy talked to the driver and he saw some (drug) contraband in the vehicle," Wigington said. "He made the decision to make an arrest. He told the driver he was under arrest and started handcuffing him and the guy started resisting."
The sheriff said the two men began to struggle and at some point the suspect attempted to get back into his vehicle.
"The guy jumped back in his car, put it in drive while the deputy was still trying to get him under control," Wigington said.
"He drove down the road about 800 feet. He accelerated at some point, and the deputy drew his weapon and discharged it."
The deputy fell from the vehicle while the car, a 2001 white Nissan Altima, continued forward and crashed into a brick mailbox, the sheriff said.
"Another deputy arrived at the scene and saw the deputy lying in the roadway and getting up. They got up to the vehicle and checked the driver. Once the ambulance got there, it was determined he had died," Wigington said.
The name of the suspect, a black man in his 20s, was not released by the sheriff's office pending notification of the man's family.
Wigington said the deputy, who was treated at Rockdale Medical Center and later released, has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the Sheriff's Office conducts an internal investigation.
Wigington declined to identify the deputy, but said he had been with the sheriff's office for two years and had recently graduated from law enforcement training.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is also investigating the shooting.
This was the first time in 15 years that a Rockdale County deputy killed a suspect in the line of duty, Wigington said, adding that when this does happen, officers are asked to attend counseling.
"We typically ask them to sit with a psychologist and make sure they're OK and are prepared to go back to work and be capable to handle what comes along in the future," he said.
Aimee Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.