More Courthouse Violence: Four Wounded in Rural Georgia

LUMPKIN, Ga. (AP) - The police chief, a county deputy and a paramedic were wounded in a shootout in this small town's courthouse square Thursday and the suspected gunman was killed during an ensuing gunbattle, authorities said.

The police chief in a nearby town also was wounded during the pursuit of the suspect.

The most seriously injured was the paramedic, who was shot in the leg after arriving at the scene to help the wounded officers, said John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The officers' injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Two people were taken into custody at the second shooting scene, but later it was determined they were hostages of the gunman. A third person, the suspected gunman, fired at officers with a semiautomatic pistol and was shot and killed by police, Bankhead said.

The episode stemmed from an argument the gunman had earlier with family members, and the suspect may have opened fire on police as part of a desire to commit suicide by being killed by police, said GBI Director Vernon Keenan, citing statements from witnesses.

"He made statements that he was going to force police to kill him," Keenan said.

The gunfire began about 2 a.m. when officers responded to a report of shots fired outside the Stewart County Courthouse in Lumpkin, a town of about 1,300 people near the Alabama border 115 miles southwest of Atlanta.

Lumpkin Police Chief Jay Stripling and Stewart County Deputy Clinton Rivers were both shot in the face by a man firing from the courthouse steps, Bankhead said. The paramedic was then shot while rushing to their aide.

The suspect then fled the scene.

A few hours later, after more than 50 officers and a police helicopter swarmed the area, officers confronted three suspects a few blocks from the courthouse. One of the men, identified as Marcus Dwayne Dalton, 26, fired at officers with a 9mm pistol, grazing Plains Police Chief Henry Brown.

Officers returned fire and killed Dalton, Bankhead said. The other two people with Dalton were taken in for questioning, but it was determined Dalton had held them as hostages and one was a cousin.

During the second shootout, a deputy was struck in his gun belt by a bullet, but was not injured.

Dalton was on parole at the time of the shootings and had an extensive criminal record, including arrests for making terroristic threats, aggravated assault and distribution of marijuana. "He's made it known he wanted to be a gangster," Keenan said.

Kimberly Daniels, 28, watched in horror as police milled about the crime scene as she returned home after working the night shift at a factory in nearby Buena Vista.

"There were a line of police cars," Daniels said. "I saw a lot of police with guns on their shoulders. I was frightened. I didn't know what was going on."

The injured paramedic, Vance Streeter, had been struck in an artery and underwent surgery at The Medical Center in Columbus, Ga. He remained in critical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit, said hospital spokesman Tim Crabb.

Stripling's jawbone was broken by a bullet and Rivers was shot in the eye, said Michelle Slaughter, Stewart County Sheriff's dispatcher. Both were in satisfactory condition at the hospital. Brown was treated and released.

Later in the day, dozens of police cars still filled the streets and yellow police tape was draped around the two-story red-brick courthouse that featured four white pillars at each of its main entrances. The paramedic's trauma bag and other equipment still were on the pavement where he was shot.

The square, which features antique-style lamp posts, is surrounded by brick storefronts, including gift and antique shops, a liquor store and a gas station.


Associated Press writers Harry R. Weber and Daniel Yee in Atlanta contributed to this report.