Sheriff launches ‘decisive action’ against surge in killings

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 9:27 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2022 at 3:02 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A wave of deaths including five Augusta homicides since Thursday has Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree vowing quick action to stem the surge of violent crime.

“The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is acutely aware of the uptick in homicides within the last week,” he said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “The Sheriff’s Office is taking decisive action to investigate these homicides as well as to prevent others in the future.”

He said his agency is “in the early stages of investigation” and requests any information the public can provide to help “successfully arrest the culprits.”

He said at least two of the shooting victims were killed as a result of gang violence.

“We have plans for selected enforcement action to target those criminals who are participating in gangs and the associated gun violence and drug trafficking,” he said.

This will include “proactive teams conducting operations” in areas recently affected by gang activity and other known high-crime areas, he said.

Deputies will also conduct road checks in targeted areas.

“This activity will continue until these gang members and their associates realize that the Sheriff’s Office will not rest until they stop or are put in jail,” he said.

A deadly week

There have been four fatal shootings in Augusta since Thursday, plus an additional homicide Tuesday.

A dead female was found just before noon Tuesday outside a vacant home in the 1500 block of Conklin Lane. The death was considered suspicious from the start, but the coroner ruled Tuesday that the death was the result of a homicide.

That discovery came on the heels two slayings Monday.

Deputies were dispatched Monday night to the Circle K at 1739 Walton Way, where they learned the victim, Jenefer Holt Herron, 52, of Augusta, had been shot at least once.

She was taken to Augusta University Medical Center and pronounced dead at 11:45 p.m., according to Coroner Mark Bowen.

During the investigation, deputies discovered the shooter fled the scene in a gray sport utility vehicle.

Suspect Yelena Buckner, 33, of Augusta, was later found and arrested on charges of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, deputies reported.

Yelena Buckner
Yelena Buckner(WRDW)

The shooting occurred after the victim and suspect argued in the parking lot, deputies reported.

The Circle K slaying wasn’t the only fatal shooting Monday in Augusta.

One was also reported at 7:23 a.m. when deputies were called to the 1900 block of Old Savannah Road to investigate a report of a death. At the scene, deputies found a male victim who’d been shot at least once.

The victim had been found by a passing motorist and pronounced dead on the scene at 7:58 a.m., according to Bowen.

Bowen identified the victim as Johnnie Coleman, 72, of the 200 block of Holloway Drive.

An autopsy is scheduled with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Bowen said.

The investigation is in its early stages, according to deputies.

Monday’s shootings were just two in a string of violence that’s leaving a trail of deaths and injuries across the CSRA.

Just in the past few days, there were two other deadly shootings in Augusta:

  • JaJuan Russell, 21, of the 700 block of East Chapman Street, was fatally shot early Sunday in the 3700 block of Oslo Road. Russell taken to Augusta University Medical Center. He was pronounced dead at 1:14 a.m. An autopsy was scheduled with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
  • Brandon Peebles, 24, of Girard, was shot around 10:45 p.m. Thursday in the 2300 block of Prague Court, the same neighborhood as Sunday’s shooting. He was pronounced dead at 11:23 p.m. Bowen said the victim’s body was sent to the GBI.

Larger crime wave

The fatal shootings come as part of an uptick in violent crime across the CSRA in the past few days:

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