The investigation into a fatal shooting of two suspects by a pair of Anderson County deputies is closed, and both the TBI and the District Attorney General's Office have determined that the officers acted appropriately and should be commended for their actions.
The outside investigation was requested by Anderson County Sheriff Paul White after the shooting, which happened on February 29.
In a press release, District Attorney General Dave Clark outlined the findings of the TBI investigation, which revealed new details about that day, including the fact that the suspects were under the influence of a drug called "bath salts," which is "sometimes associated with irrational and even violent behavior."
The two suspects, Michael Joseph Baker and Shanna Lee Richardson, of Indiana, were driving a stolen pickup truck and were suspected of stealing gas that morning in Lake City.
After the gas drive-off, they somehow ran the truck off the road and into a ditch. An Anderson County man stopped to help them, and because of their behavior, he called police and described the vehicle.
Shortly afterwards, Deputy Jonathan "Adam" Bryant spotted the suspect vehicle on Raccoon Valley Road, and began a high-speed pursuit when the driver, Baker, wouldn't pull over. The investigation found that items were thrown from the truck during the pursuit, and the suspects fired a gun at Bryant.
Eventually, the truck grazed a power pole, causing the tire to go flat. The driver pulled into a gravel lot near the Claxton Volunteer Fire Department on Old Emory Road.
At that time, an off-duty deputy who has since been promoted to Corporal, James Daniel "J.D." Powell, arrived on the scene. He had been in the area and was monitoring the pursuit on the radio, and came to assist.
Richardson, who was in the passenger seat, began firing at the deputies through the back window of the truck. They fired back until she stopped shooting at them. Then Baker, who was crouching down outside the driver's door of the truck, started running. He was armed and refused to stop, so the deputies fired and incapacitated him.
After the gunfire stopped, Richardson was found dead in the cab of the truck. Baker was treated at the scene and taken to the hospital, where he later died.
Two gunshot holes were found in Bryant's patrol car.
An empty .22 caliber pistol was found two feet away from Baker's hand after he fell. Inside the truck, officers found a 12 gauge pump shotgun and 34 rounds shotgun ammunition, along with 58 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition. There was also a spoon with residue which tested positive for the illegal drug commonly found in products marketed as "bath salts."
Autopsy results show that Richardson has consumed marijuana and "bath salts." She was struck six times by bullets. Baker had "bath salts" and clonazepam and his blood stream. He was shot twice. The autopsy did indicate that one bullet could have caused more than one entrance and exit wound.
The investigators spoke with both deputies along with several civilian witnesses to the shootout. They also examined the physical evidence at the scene.
After reading the investigative file and results, General Clark has determined that "Baker and Richardson demonstrated indifference to police authority and disregard for the safety of other citizens," and the fact that they fired a gun at deputies and would not yield to their commands to stop, that "the deputies had little choice but to employ the use of deadly force."
General Clark has closed the investigation, also saying that "Deputy Bryant, in particular, who was the primary officer involved, should be commended in the manner of his tactical performance at the scene. It is also commendable that even though he was off-duty, Corporal Powell recognized that a nearby deputy might need aid and was willing to come to his aid."