Richmond County facing growing gang violence

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September 25, 2006

Richmond County deputies face growing problems with gang members all too willing to shoot first and ask questions later.

A weekend shootout has investigators scrambling for more clues in a string of crimes.

It all started at the Waffle House on Gordon Highway, which led to a drive-by at a home in Barton Village.

Later, the same car seen at the Waffle House was burned in Barton Village.

Around 5 o'clock on Sunday morning, investigators say a large group left the Dirty South club just down the road. That crowd spilled over to the waffle house, where a shootout began.

"Once people start shooting and scatter, you can't tell who's involved," Sgt. Richard Roundtree told News 12. "There was a parking lot full of people."

That's exactly what happened early Sunday morning when investigators say gunfire erupted in the Waffle House parking lot.

"One subject, victim, got struck by a person shooting at the car and the car shot back."

An hour later, investigators believe the same suspect seen shooting at the Waffle House shot at a house in Barton Village.

It's a house investigators have been to once or twice before.

"We've had gang activity at the house before with guns and weapons," Sgt. Roundtree said. "We feel it's related."

It's why they say moments later, that same car was found behind a nearby vacant lot, up in flames.

"t was a stolen vehicle," Sgt. Roundtree explained. :They were destroying all the evidence inside. They wanted nothing tied back to them."

Evidence, investigators say, that leads them to a growing gang problem in Augusta.

"Problem is, now they're arming themselves with high-powered weapons and rifles, and that poses a serious problem."

Several other shootings were reported over the weekend, and now investigators are left to wonder just how many more were committed by the same gunmen.

Richmond County does have a Gang Task Force in place, but with more than 50 identified gangs in the area, and a lack of manpower, investigators say they can only be reactive instead of proactive at this point.

No suspects have been identified so far.