COVINGTON -- The Covington Rotary Club recently honored two Covington law enforcement officers with the club's Award of Valor for their heroic actions in saving the life of a fellow officer.
Georgia State Patrol Trooper and Covington resident Shane Allen and Covington Police Officer Anthony Walden were praised for their quick action in defending Trooper Mark Riley when a suspect opened fire on him following a vehicle chase on Interstate 20 in 2009.
In presenting the awards to the two law enforcement officers, Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton described the circumstances surrounding the incident.
"On Oct. 22, 2009, while running radar eastbound on I-20, Trooper Mark Riley clocked a vehicle traveling 94 mph in a 70 mph zone. Trooper Riley attempted to conduct a traffic stop, but the suspect continued at a high rate of speed towards Covington.
"Other Georgia State troopers joined in on the chase and the city of Covington Police Department was notified the pursuit was traveling towards the city ... The suspect exited I-20 at the Alcovy Road exit and turned left onto Alcovy Road to travel north. He immediately turned back onto the on-ramp of I-20 as though he would re-enter the interstate. The suspect then made several maneuvers in an attempt to elude the troopers and even struck the trooper's car in the left rear door when the trooper tried using his car to block the suspect's escape.
"The suspect eventually made his way back onto I-20 once again traveling eastbound with both GSP and Covington officers (following)."
Cotton said Trooper Riley attempted a PIT maneuver, designed to spin the suspect's car and end the chase. Upon successfully completing that maneuver, Riley used his vehicle to pin the suspect driver's side door against the GSP unit's bumper.
"Trooper Riley exited his vehicle giving verbal commands to the suspect who immediately and without warning opened fire on Trooper Riley, shooting through the suspect's own window with a hail of bullets, intent on killing Trooper Riley," Cotton said.
"Trooper Riley was attacked in an instant and was unable to return fire. He could only seek cover to the rear of his vehicle as the suspect continued to fire at him from inside his car.
"Simultaneously Trooper Shane Allen had stopped his vehicle to the left of Trooper Riley with the front of his car blocking the front of the suspect's car. Trooper Allen exited his vehicle and took a position behind cover near the front left wheel of his vehicle and upon seeing the suspect open fire on Trooper Riley, he returned fire through the suspect's front windshield and driver's side window, striking the suspect.
"Simultaneously Covington Police Officer Anthony Walden, who was assisting in the pursuit, came to a stop at the rear of the suspect's vehicle and to the passenger side of Trooper Riley's car. Taking a tactical approach from the left rear and seeing the suspect fire at Trooper Riley, Officer Walden advanced towards the suspect's car returning fire through the rear passenger's window of the suspect's car, also striking the suspect. Officer Walden continued to advance on the suspect returning fire even though he could see the suspect reaching into the back seat to retrieve a bag which contained another loaded weapon.
"Trooper Allen and Officer Walden both continued to fire at the suspect until fatally wounding him and the threat against Trooper Riley and other officers on the scene was stopped. Both officers then moved towards the car and secured the suspect and called for medical assistance."
Cotton said at that point, both officers were shocked to see that the suspect had a passenger in his vehicle. They found a 16-year-old girl cowering in the floor on the front passenger's side of the vehicle.
"Miraculously she was unhurt," Cotton said. "Once medical assistance arrived, it was determined that the suspect had died of his injuries."
When officers searched the suspect's vehicle, it was discovered that he possessed multiple weapons, ammunition and drugs. It was also later determined that he had outstanding warrants.
"This story outlines what officers do in this city, this county, this state and all across this country on a daily basis," Cotton said in conclusion. "They stand ready to act in the defense of the life of others on a moment's notice. What started out as a routine speeder traveling down the interstate on an October night turned out to be an encounter with an armed felon intent on doing serious bodily harm or killing another human being; in this case an officer doing no more than enforcing the law ... his job.
"Trooper Shane Allen and Officer Anthony Walden both realized in an instant that a fellow officer's life was in danger and reacted without hesitation, without concern for their own safety and with a sense of duty. (With) their actions, they were able to save lives."