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What are local deputies doing to prevent violent crimes?

Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 6:48 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Several of you have reached out to us about what the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is doing to keep people safe, especially in busy areas like downtown Augusta.

Richmond County and the CSRA as a whole have been seeing an outbreak of shootings, many of them fatal.

In just three days, three people were shot dead in Augusta homicides:

Deputies are calling the current wave of homicides frustrating and disappointing, but they tell us they’re working to make sure incidents like we saw become less likely.

“It’s always devastating to see young people who are senselessly murdered,” said Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton.

Deputies say bystanders could’ve done more to save a life.

“If they would’ve called if they saw something escalating, we could have had a chance to maybe get there and to stop somebody from getting shot and killed. Stop somebody else from going to prison for a significant period of their life,” he said.

Clayton says that shootings downtown are rare. He says it’s hard to predict when and where shootings will happen.

“We can’t put a deputy on every corner,” he said.

But they’re working on a program to be more proactive downtown. SPLOST funds are establishing the downtown camera program. They’re analytical cameras, set to go up in 2023, that can hear when gunshots go off or if crowds get into fights.

“That gives us an edge to potentially save some lives, and that’s what we’re in the business of doing,” said Clayton.

Clayton says keeping the shooters behind bars is a must.

“We need to incapacitate them and keep them where they can’t keep hurting other people. That will give us our biggest bang for our buck in reducing these kinds of issues,” he said.

He says they’re going to continue to clean the streets.

“If you are a gang member, you should be afraid because your number could be called before too long,” he said.

He believes the shooting involving the 19-year-old was gang-related. He says that they’re working with the FBI on Operation Grace.

They’ll be doing gang operations and enforcement with the Safe Streets Task Force.

The local surge in violence seemed to start emerging in April, when it was mostly centered in Richmond County. Then we started to see more homicides across the Savannah River in Aiken County as well as in smaller places in Georgia like Washington County.

Homicides since April 14 in the CSRA include:

  • On June 3 in the 100 block of Pelzer Street in Warrenville, 34-year-old Lacey Toole was shot dead by her boyfriend John Williams, who then turned the gun on himself.
  • On June 2 on Summerhill Avenue, 37-year-old Yoni Vargas shot his wife, 33-year-old Rosa Salguero-Landaverde, then killed himself.
  • On May 29, a shooting killed two people – 17-year-old William Mykell Lowery and 30-year-old Christopher “Scooter” Dunn – at a “Freaknik”-themed party being held at a ball[park outside Sandersville, Ga. The shooting is believed to be the result of an altercation.
  • Patricia Dent, 65, was strangled to death by her boyfriend Joseph McKinnon, who then buried her body in their yard at 102 Tanglewood Drive in Trenton, authorities say. They learned of her death on May 7 after finding McKinnon dead of a heart attack he suffered while burying Dent.
  • A shooting just before 7:30 p.m. on April 23 claimed the life of Rodriquez Dunn, 31, at the Olmstead Homes in the 2100 block of B Street in Augusta. Dunn suffered at least one gunshot wound and died at the scene.
  • On April 19, Brittany Dougherty was found slain outside a vacant home in the 1500 block of Conklin Lane. Her death was considered suspicious from the start, but within hours the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office ruled her death a homicide.
  • On April 18, Johnnie Coleman was found shot dead in the 1900 block of Old Savannah Road. Authorities released a photo of a car suspected to have been linked to that slaying. Kelvin Lewis, 33, has been arrested as a suspect in the murders of Coleman and Dougherty.
  • Jenefer Holt Herron, 52, of Augusta, died late April 18 after being shot during an argument outside the Circle K at 1739 Walton Way in Augusta. 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.
  • JaJuan Russell, 21, of Augusta, was fatally shot early April 17 in the 3700 block of Oslo Road in Augusta. Russell was taken to Augusta University Medical Center.
  • Sandersville police found the body of a man on April 16 inside a home on Gwendolyn Street while responding to a report of a domestic dispute at the address. Santavious Louis Roberts, 35, of Sandersville, was arrested.
  • Brandon Peebles, 24, of Girard, was shot around 10:45 p.m. on April 14 in the 2300 block of Prague Court. He was pronounced dead at 11:23 p.m.

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