DEARING, Ga. - A lengthy standoff between police and a man who fired shots at a McDuffie County deputy and then barricaded himself in his girlfriend's home ended late Wednesday night when Richmond County SWAT members stormed the house and took the man into custody, authorities said.
Officers led a handcuffed David Kitchens from the home of Tracy Morris, in the 2400 block of Old Whiteoak Road, shortly after 9:30 p.m., about 15 minutes after SWAT officers tossed a concussion grenade and rushed in the front door.
McDuffie County Deputies Mike Hobbs (left) and Shea Bunch examine the doorway of a home where an armed man barricaded himself.
Photo by Michael Holahan/Morris News Service
Mr. Kitchens, who neighbors said is a construction worker who attended Thomson High School, was taken to the McDuffie County detention center on charges of aggravated assault on a police officer, said McDuffie County sheriff's Sgt. Mike Hobbs.
"The best part is nobody got hurt," he said.
Sgt. Hobbs said the incident started at about 6:30 p.m. when a McDuffie County deputy responded to a domestic disturbance call to the home of Ms. Morris, who a neighbor said is employed as a secretary at the local Fleetwood mobile home factory in Thomson.
Witnesses said Mr. Kitchens fired a shot at the deputy, who returned fire. Neither man was injured. Sgt. Hobbs said he couldn't confirm the details of the event because it is under investigation.
With Mr. Kitchens barricaded in the house about two miles north of Dearing Elementary School, McDuffie County sheriff's deputies, Georgia State Patrol troopers and SWAT personnel from Richmond County surrounded the house. Neighbors were evacuated and police set up a series of checkpoints around the house, located north of U.S. Highway 78.
At some point in the three-hour standoff, Ms. Morris slipped away to safety, Sgt. Hobbs said. Other family members who were at the house at the start of the incident also escaped.
Joey Welch, 31, who lives across from Ms. Morris, was stepping out of the shower when a Georgia state trooper knocked on his door and ordered him, his wife and his 11-year-old son to evacuate.
"They said they was shots fired and we needed to evacuate, so we hauled butt and got out of here," said Mr. Welch, who attended Thomson High School in 1991 with Mr. Kitchens and Ms. Morris.
Police surrounded Ms. Morris' home, Mr. Welch said.
"Looked out the window and they was swarming," he said.
Mr. Welch and his family took shelter in a travel trailer at the rear of their property.
Mr. Welch said he and his family emerged at about 9:30 p.m., in time to see Mr. Kitchens being led away by officers. Deputies on the scene said SWAT officers were sent in around 9:15 p.m.
"He was walking out, so weren't nobody hurt," Mr. Welch said.
"He was like any normal human being that I could tell you about," he said.
Mr. Welch expressed doubts that Mr. Kitchens would shoot at a deputy, noting there was a dead dog surrounded by buzzards in a ditch in front of Ms. Morris' home.
"I ain't sure that's what he done because we're out in the country all the time shooting guns," he said. "He could have been shooting at them buzzards."
Reach Jim Nesbitt at (803) 648-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Thursday, August 26, 2004 edition of the Augusta Chronicle