Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan
Gwinnett County Police Officers points to something after responding to the location of a wanted person located at Pass Court in Buford on Monday. The wanted person was Rodney Pike, 38, who used his SUV as a weapon and died on the scene due to shots fired by the officers who initially responded.
Officer-involved shooting in Buford
Police brief the media following an incident in which a man wanted in Forsyth was shot dead by police.
LAWRENCEVILLE — When Joan Morgan called to ask Gwinnett County police to pick up her son — wanted out of Forsyth County on probation violation and failure to appear charges — she warned them he may run.
No stranger to correctional facilities, Rodney O’Neil Pike, 38, would likely flee when authorities showed up at his sister’s Sugar Hill home, Morgan cautioned, but, thanks to leg injuries in recent years, wasn’t “gonna run that fast.”
In addition to asking that officers not reveal it was her who called, Pike’s mother made one plea in the 911 call obtained by the Daily Post.
“Don’t shoot him,” Morgan told the dispatcher. “Please don’t hurt my baby.”
A handful of officers descended upon the Pass Court home at about 4 p.m. Monday, confronting Pike outside. He reportedly jumped into a blue Ford Explorer and “refused to comply with the officers’ verbal commands to stop.”
One Taser attempt was unsuccessful, police said, at which point Pike started the car, hit one officer in the leg and “was headed directly toward another.”
Shots were fired by two officers. Pike, one of “Forsyth’s Most Wanted,” was killed.
“I hated to do this,” Morgan had said during the phone call that triggered the incident, “but he’s been on drugs off and on for a while and it’s just ridiculous. He’s hard to talk to now. He needs help.”
In the month-plus since April 10, Pike was the third individual to be shot and killed by Gwinnett County police officers.
On April 10, Lauren Holman Brown was killed by a GCPD SWAT officer after holding several Gwinnett firefighters hostage in Suwanee for more than four hours. On April 22, Eric Andrews was shot after approaching officers with a tire iron, reportedly after a burglary at a Norcross apartment.
The year’s total has already matched last year’s number of fatal officer-involved shootings. It’s also eclipsed the department’s annual average since 2009, according to statistics compiled by the Office of Professional Standards.
-- 2009: Five shootings, three fatal
-- 2010: Three shootings, one fatal
-- 2011: Seven shootings, four fatal
-- 2012: Six shootings, three fatal
The use of firearms by county officers is dwarfed by other means of force — over the last four years, an average of 129 annual incidents of Taser use have been recorded.
Many of the fatal incidents over those years have drawn ire from friends and family of the deceased, who insist that the use of firearms was unnecessary and that police officers were overzealous in their use of deadly force.
But District Attorney Danny Porter, whose office is part of the county’s post-incident Deadly Force Investigation Team, pointed more toward suspects creating the perceived spike in officer-involved deaths.
“It seems to be part of a nationwide trend that offenders are willing to use deadly force against officers,” he said.
The Gwinnett County Police Department’s use of force policy is, to be oxymoronic, specifically vague.
“An officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that the action is in defense of human life,” it reads, “including the officer’s own life, or in defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury, or to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon whom the officer has probable cause to believe will pose a significant threat to human life if escape should occur and all other available means of defense have failed or would be inadequate or dangerous.”
As pertains to the Pike case specifically, the policy also says shots “shall not be fired from or at a moving vehicle” and orders officers to make every effort to “avoid the vehicle becoming a threat of death or substantial harm to the officer.”
Per department policy, the officers involved in Monday’s situation have been placed on paid administrative leave.