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SWAT probe begins
Sheriff defends use of force

SNELLVILLE - Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway on Thursday defended lethal measures taken by deputies to bring down an irate man authorities now say was armed with two butcher knives.

A probe is under way into the death of Snellville resident Selwyn Myron Heath, 40, shot twice by a deputy in his front yard after Tasers and a bean bag round failed to debilitate him, officials said.

The deputy who fired the lethal shots has been placed on standard leave, pending investigations by the Sheriff's Department's own professional standards unit and the Gwinnett Police Shooting Team, who will examine the pathway of bullets, officials said.

"I believe my men acted appropriately," Conway said. "It's very unfortunate (Heath) decided to make the decision he made."

It was unclear Thursday where Heath was physically shot. Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais said investigators won't definitively know where the bullets struck him until autopsy results come back.

Heath died Wednesday night at Gwinnett Medical Center following surgery, officials said.

Police said Heath was involved in a physical altercation Wednesday morning with his fiancee, who sought help at the Snellville Police Department. When officers tried to confront him at home in the Skylar's Mill subdivision, Heath reportedly barricaded himself inside with his 14-year-old son.

At one point, he used the teen as a shield, Bourbonnais said.

Heath later freed his son and a small dog as negotiations with police went on. When SWAT team members deployed gas through back windows, Heath stormed out, undeterred by two Taser rounds and a bean bag shot, Bourbonnais said.

Records show Snellville police have responded to Heath's Skylars Mill Way residence on two prior domestic violence incidents and two alarm calls, Bourbonnais said.

There's no record of a restraining order having been filed against Heath in Gwinnett Magistrate Court, according to a court representative.