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February 12, 2004 Issue

Serious smoke damage...
Firefighters from Louisville, Wadley and Bartow respond to a house fire Feb. 4 on SR 24 west of Louisville. No one was injured in the blaze, though the interior of the structure suffered major fire and smoke damage.

Locals involved in Augusta arrests

Matthews woman followed masked robber, giving directions to officers via cell phone

By Parish Howard

She saw the mask, the gun and his eyes.

"He looked desperate and wild," Matthews resident Karen Walden said of the man who robbed an Augusta department store at gunpoint last week, the man she helped capture.


Mrs. Walden had stopped in at the Goody's off Deans Bridge Road in Augusta to do a little shopping for her grandchildren before meeting a friend.

"When I look back, I can see how the Lord protected me," Mrs. Walden said. "Even at the checkout I had an eerie feeling like something wasn't right. I had my keys in my hand and I never do that during the day. You know me; I'm not scared of the Devil."

She said her arms were loaded with clothes and she was on her way out of the store when her day changed toward the dangerously bizarre.

First a woman ran screaming past her into the store with her hands over head. Then a man in a grayish mask walked in brandishing what appeared to be a small caliber pistol and stopped in front of Mrs. Walden.

"We eyeballed each other. He looked me in the face, said, 'It's showtime, it's showtime,' and fired his pistol twice into the air. All I could think was 'get help.'"

The next thing she knew she was moving towards him, brushing by him on her way out the door.

"I didn't know if I was going to be getting a bullet in the back at any minute," she said.

She went straight to her car and called 911.

"I was hysterical," she said. "I was praying and talking to them at the same time."

She says in one breath she was telling them about the robbery in progress and in the next she was praying out loud that he wouldn't kill the cashiers with which she had just been speaking.

Mrs. Walden pulled out of the parking lot and parked across the street at Walmart where she could see what was going on. The 911 operator asked her for the perpetrator's tag number.

"I couldn't see it, but when he came out and got in his car I told them to hold on, I was going to follow him," she said. "When he got to the stop light, he stared right at me, and I said out loud, 'Oh, God, please don't let him shoot me.'"

But the gunman turned toward Glenn Hills. Just moments later she met a deputy who was apparently responding to the call.

"I told her that I met a deputy, to turn him around, and when I glanced in the rearview I saw his brakelights come on," Ms. Walden said.

Not long after that deputies passed her and took over the chase, but Ms. Walden continued to follow them. She was there when he came back to Dean's Bridge and she watched him run a red light and cross three lanes of traffic before blowing into the side of Wrens resident Renee' Weeks' Suburban.

"God was really looking out for me; he had his hand on me," said Mrs. Weeks who was not seriously injured and walked away from the crash. Through another coincidence, the EMT who treated her was Jim Gunn, another Matthews-area native.

The collision damaged the perpetrator's vehicle and he was caught after a second collision at the next traffic light.

Officers later told Mrs. Walden that the perpetrator told them that he didn't know why he had let her out of the store.

"I told them that I know why," Mrs. Walden said. "It was the grace of God."

The pistol he used was a starter pistol that only fired blanks.

"But when I saw it and heard it, it was real to me," she said. "God knew he couldn't hurt me with it."

Mrs. Walden said that she has since gone back in the store to prove to herself that she could do it, that the unnerving experience would not beat her.

Gibson standoff with police ends without harm

Commission agrees to stagger terms of development authority members

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A tragedy was averted Feb. 2 when officers from Glascock County and other agencies successfully disarmed a man in a standoff at his residence on SR 80.

A call to render assistance at the residence of Gaynor Newsome came in to first responders just before 8:30 p.m. Sheriff Bryan Bopp asked them to hold back until he could speak with Newsome. A long time acquaintance of Newsome, Bopp knew the Vietnam veteran had experienced problems relating to his service during the war.

Upon the arrival of Bopp and Glascock deputies, Newsome answered the door holding a handgun and moments later exited the house, moving to different locations in his backyard. During the conversation that lasted more than an hour Newsome stated on numerous occasions that he did not want to hurt anyone yet refused to relinquish any of the several guns he had in his possession during the incident. Bopp called for backup assistance as a precaution after Newsome continued to refuse to give up his weapon.

Units from Warren County Sheriff's Office, Warrenton Police and Georgia State Patrol responded, working with Glascock deputies to surround the area as Bopp continued to speak with Newsome. He was subdued later when he fell backwards as he was sitting on the ground near his back door. He was transported to Veteran's Hospital in Augusta for observation.

Contacted Feb. 3, Bopp and Deputy Chuck Cason said they believed the incident was handled appropriately given the circumstances they encountered.

"In a situation like this you've got time to make a choice," said Bopp. "I've known Gayner a long time. A part of the credo of every officer is to protect and serve. I've got kids at home, too, like the others officers at the scene. But if we had rushed him it would not be protecting him. Every life is valuable. Every life is worth it."

Inmate's attempted suicide interrupted

Young man was in cell with three other inmates when he attempted to hang himself

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

An inmate at Jefferson County jail on misdemeanor charges is in critical condition at Washington County Regional Medical Center's intensive care unit after attempting to hang himself in his cell Tuesday morning.

Louisville resident Alvin York used sheets from his cell tied to the upper bars of his cell door.

York, one of four inmates in the cell, was discovered at 9:45 a.m. with one end around his neck and the other end tied to the latticework type bars approximately seven feet above the floor.

He was found propped against the bars with his feet on the floor, said Sheriff Gary Hutchins.

The jailer had checked the cell three minutes earlier as he made his rounds. The jailer returned because York had been in an agitated mood, said Hutchins. The jailer went for assistance and returned at 9:47.

York was transported by paramedics to Jefferson Hospital and then to Washington County Regional Medical Center in Sandersville.

York was arrested Jan. 31 on misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A $5,000 bond was set the following day but he had not successfully arranged for his release.

Hutchins said a small percentage of inmates attempt bodily harm either on themselves or others as a means of decreasing their time in jail or to receive sympathy from jailers.

In nearly every case the situation does not reach the level of seriousness that York displayed.

"We know that if a person is serious about taking their own life, no matter where they are, they're going to do it," said Hutchins. "It is for reasons like this, and other precautions relating to inmate safety, that the jailers make such frequent checks of the cells."

Safety precautions also require that jailers obtain assistance before entering a cell during emergencies such as the one Tuesday.

At the time of the incident York and three other inmates were in the cell. Training requires that they avoid situations where a group of inmates in close proximity could overpower the jailer.

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Last modified: February 11, 2004