A standoff in Cherokee County ended with a teenager shot and killed by a sniper from the sheriff's department. Now neighbors are asking Tough Questions. They want to know why deputies saw shooting the teen as their only option.
Sheriff Roger Garrison told CBS Atlanta News that 16-year-old Andrew Messina left deputies very little choice Tuesday when he rammed a gun through a window and aimed it at deputies. The sheriff said his sniper's job is to protect fellow officers, and that's what he did. But neighbors believe other steps could have been taken.
"Killing someone is always the last straw," upset neighbor Joe Mertz said. "I appreciate them for them for risking their lives every day to provide our safety, but I think they handled this completely wrong."
Mertz said Messina's life could have been spared had sheriff deputies taken a different approach to de-escalating the crisis.
"He had a helmet on, a flap jacket, a shield and assault rifle, grenade launcher, and this was the person that was speaking to an unstable 16-year-old," Mertz said.
The 911 tapes gives a glimpse of what was going in the home. Garrison said deputies arrived to find Messina armed with a .357 Magnum handgun and in a rage.
The community is asking if there was any other alternative than to shoot a teenager?
"The answer is simple," explained a soft-spoken Garrison. "He maintained control of the situation with his ranting and raving. We never could establish a dialogue to get him to calm down and get him to listen to anything we were saying."
Garrison said it was an extremely difficult call to make, but he stands by the decision his deputies made at the scene.
"Had that officer not taken the action, it's a chance that one of those negotiators who also has a family wouldn't be going home today," Garrison said.
Neighbors, however, expect more from their officers of the law.
"That's not good enough. I hate the way it went down, too, but I can't do anything about it. But they could have," Mertz said.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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