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Struggle led to deputy shooting man

A rookie deputy with the Richmond County Sheriff's Department who fatally shot a man outside an Augusta restaurant on Labor Day Monday fired only after the man pointed a handgun at him, authorities say.

The deputy, who was not injured, was identified as 32-year-old Walter "Griff" Garrison, who lives in Thomson.

Michael T. Ayers, special agent in-charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 7 Office in Thomson, said last Wednesday the fatal shooting stemmed from a struggle that ensued between Deputy Garrison and 22-year-old Kevin Brayano Pao in the back seat of a patrol car. Pao was from Rockville, Maryland.

"He (Pao) pointed his weapon at the deputy," Agent Ayers said, noting that is when Deputy Garrison shot Pao as he sat in the backseat. He was pronounced dead about an hour later by Richmond County Deputy Coroner Johnny McDonald.

Ayers refused to say how many times Pao was shot or what type of handgun the man brandished, but confirmed it was loaded.

An autopsy was performed at the GBI Crime Lab in Augusta last Wednesday, but preliminary findings have not been released.

The shooting occurred shortly before 5:30 p.m. outside Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Washington Road in Augusta, Agent Ayers said.

Pat Morgan, assistant special agent in-charge of the Thomson GBI office responded as did Special Agent Tony Williamson and Crime Scene Specialist Steve Foster.

Deputy Garrison has been placed on administrative duty pending the completion of the investigation by the GBI. Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength requested the GBI probe the shooting.

Agent Ayers said Deputy Garrison received a call from dispatch informing him to respond to the restaurant. The nature of the call: trouble with a customer.

"A management person told the deputy that the man was locked in the bathroom," the GBI official said. "The deputy knocked on the door and Pao opened it."

The two men then walked outside the restaurant where Deputy Garrison asked him to sit in the backseat of the patrol car. Agent Ayers said Pao never purchased anything at the restaurant.

The shooting occurred after Deputy Garrison asked Pao if he had any weapons on him, Ayers said. Pao pulled out a handgun from a bag and pointed it at the deputy at which time the deputy pulled out his service weapon and fired, he added.

"This person was never under arrest," Agent Ayers said. "He was being held under investigative detention at the time -- a very routine process in calls like this one."

Deputies had been looking for a vehicle they believed Pao had been living in. The SUV was discovered near the Kroger store off Washington Road on Wednesday morning. Afterwards, the contents were inventoried by GBI Special Agent Doug Parker.

"This man was homeless from everything we've been able to learn," Agent Ayers said.

The GBI official expects the probe to be completed and ready for review by Augusta Circuit District Attorney Ashley Wright sometime in the next few weeks.

Web posted on Thursday, September 16, 2010

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