COVINGTON -- An Oconee Metal Recovery employee has been charged with aggravated assault in connection with a shooting incident that took place while a Covington Police officer was patrolling the grounds of the metal recycling business on Washington Street.
According to Covington Police Department spokesman Lt. D.J. Seals, an officer spotted a hole in the fence that surrounds the business about 4 a.m. Tuesday.
"Our officers are aware that there had been some problems with break-ins and thefts of copper and such and were watching the business," Seals said.
An incident report by the officer detailing events states that he had parked his patrol car outside the property and was observing it when he heard "a loud bang, then a clanging inside the fence. I believed that the subjects who had been burglarizing the business were back inside stealing copper wire again ... (I) entered the business in an attempt to investigate the noises I heard while outside the gate."
Seals said that's when the officer found the hole in the fence and began investigating for intruders.
"After being inside for approximately four to five minutes, I made my way across the lot tactically using a trailer and shadows as cover. When I made it to the end of the trailer, I stood there for approximately 30 seconds waiting and watching," the report states. "At this time, an unknown subject fired a shot at me. I heard the projectile pass over my head and then strike the trailer and building behind me. At this time I pulled my weapon from my holster and proceeded to cover behind a pallet approximately 15 feet away and radioed for backup."
Seals said nothing hit the officer, but he believed he was under fire. When backup officers arrived, a canvas of the area was conducted.
During this time, an Oconee Metal employee who lives nearby arrived at the scene. He was identified as Justin Todd Reddish, 25, of 9162 Central Ave. According to the incident report, he initially told officers, "he heard the gunshot and he came outside to see what was going on."
As officers began questioning Reddish, however, the story changed.
"Upon speaking to him, it became apparent he had done the shooting," Seals said.
According to the incident report, Reddish said he fired the shot in an attempt to "scare off" any intruders and he produced the 12-gauge shotgun he fired.
"Reddish was subsequently charged with aggravated assault," Seals said. "We're thankful nobody was hurt. This could have turned out much worse."
Seals cautioned the public against firing a gun in the defense of property.
"State law is very clear that you cannot defend property with deadly force. Here, there was nothing to indicate his life was in danger. The best thing to do if you think someone is trespassing on your property is to call us," he said.
Also, he advised members of the public to never under any circumstances point or fire a gun if you can't see where you are aiming.
"A bush rustling or a dark shadow does not constitute a target," he said.