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Deputies recovering
NCS0: Officers shot by man who later killed himself

COVINGTON - Two Newton County deputies continue to recover in an Atlanta trauma center from gunshot wounds received when they answered a suicide threat call Monday afternoon. The man they went to help died by his own hand in a bedroom of his home on Parker Road in the extreme southern portion of the county, according to the Newton County Sheriff's Office.

Dead is Thomas Leland Powell, 20, of 360 Parker Road, who was found in a bedroom of his home by members of the Covington/Newton SWAT team who entered the home after a four-hour standoff, said NCSO spokesman Lt. Tyrone Oliver.

Oliver said it was unknown at what point during the episode that began about 5 p.m. Powell committed suicide. No one else was present in the home during the incident.

"We made several attempts to make contact with the person (Powell) inside the house, by telephone and a PA system. To my knowledge we did not have any contact with him," Oliver said.

He said the incident began when a family member called to report a possible suicide attempt by a man with a gun.

"Anytime we have a call like that where we have an idea there is a gun involved ... we go in pairs, if not more. Two deputies did respond together and another one was shortly there behind them. There were a total of three deputies on the scene at the time," he said.

Oliver said Deputies Wesley Atha and James Trent approached the house.

"When they arrived on the scene, shots were fired from inside the residence, striking the two deputies," he said.

Atha, 25, a deputy with 21/2 years of service, was shot twice, once in the arm and once in the back - his bulletproof vest stopping that round from doing life-threatening damage.

"His vest definitely saved his life," Oliver said. "It is our policy that anytime you have on your uniform, you wear your vest. This is a good example of why."

Trent, 50, a deputy with 91/2 years of law enforcement service, was shot in the chin and the bullet exited through his neck.

Oliver said the deputies were unable to return fire after they were shot. Help came for them quickly, however.

"We were there pretty quick. Our radio system worked well down there, so as soon as the call for help was out, everybody was going," Oliver said.

The deputies were transported by ambulance to Atlanta Medical Center where Atha underwent emergency surgery to his forearm.

AMC spokesperson Kendra Gerlack said the deputies were both listed in fair condition Monday night, but on Tuesday they had been upgraded to good.

"That's a very positive sign. They are surrounded by family and friends and they are receiving a lot of support right now," she said. "The families have expressed how extremely grateful they are for the outcome they are having."

"They are in very good condition. I spoke with both officers, and they are doing fine, and we expect a quick recovery," Oliver said. "They are very good deputies, and our hearts go out to them and their families and also the Powell family."

Oliver said there is a parallel investigation ongoing by both the NCSO and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into the shooting of the deputies and the apparent suicide of Powell.

GBI spokesman John Bankhead said an autopsy on Powell was scheduled for Wednesday.

Powell is not unknown to the NCSO as he was arrested on burglary charges in June of 2007.

Oliver said there was an outpouring of assistance from area agencies including the Covington Police Department, the Porterdale Police Department, the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office, the GBI and "The Georgia State Patrol was a big help down there. To everybody who was down there on behalf of the Sheriff's Office and the deputies, we want to say thank you for helping us out in this situation. If I left anybody out, I apologize."

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.