A Dougherty County Police officer has been killed in the line of duty. Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek told FOX 31 News early Friday morning that Lt. Cliff Rouse was killed while responding to an armed robbery call.Chief Cheek said Lt. Rouse had responded to an armed robbery at the Pitt Stop Convenience Store at 3225 Sylvester Road just after 10 p.m. Thursday, and that he was shot a short time later at a nearby trailer park; Nob Hill Mobile Home Estates. Chief Cheek said Lt. Rouse called the police dispatcher for help after he had been shot and requested an ambulance. Lt. Rouse was shot twice; once in the stomach and once in the left leg.
"Lt. Rouse was wearing a protective vest, but the shot to the stomach barely missed the bottom layer of the vest. He died after being rushed to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital," said Chief Cheek.
Police officers from every available source responded to the area and conducted a massive manhunt. Police arrested 20-year-old Dontavius Raynard Thomas a short time later and took him in for questioning. Chief Cheek said an officer with the Dougherty County Sheriff's Department found Thomas hiding underneath a mobile home.
Chief Cheek said that Thomas will be charged with felony murder, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm during the commission a crime. Chief Cheek said more charges are pending against Thomas, and added that Thomas is a convicted felon and that he had robbed the same convenience store last year.
"We have recovered the weapon, the money, and the mask that Thomas used. Lt. Rouse was a fine officer, a fine man, and a wonderful family man. This is a tragedy, Lt. Rouse was an exemplarity officer and our hearts go out to his family," said Chief Cheek.
Lt. Rouse leaves behind a wife and two children. He served 18-years with the Dougherty County Police Department. He was 39-years old.
Chief Cheek expressed his gratitude to the many law enforcement agencies that assisted in the manhunt and arrest of Thomas, including the Dougherty County Sheriff's Department, Albany Police Department, Lee County Sheriff's Department and K-9 Team, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Patrol Aviation Unit, Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, U.S. Marshals, Dougherty County School Police, Albany State University Police, the MCLB, and even some retired police officers.
"When something like this happens, we all come together as a family," said Chief Cheek.
Chief Cheek held a press conference at the Dougherty County Police Department just before noon to bring the media up to date on the case. FOX 31's Allen Carter was in attendance and has attached the press conference in its entirety on this story. Click on the video player to see Chief Cheek's remarks. Listed below are some excerpts from the press conference.
"This was the first officer killed in the line of duty at the Dougherty County Police Department and we pray that it will be the last," said Chief Don Cheek.
Lt. Rouse was wearing a bullet-proof vest but was shot underneath his protective gear.
After the arrest officers recovered a firearm believed was used in the robbery and shooting.
Thomas has been charged with 3 felony charges: murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Thomas was on felony probation after he was convicted of burglarizing the same store in June 2009. He is currently being held in the Dougherty County Jail.
District Attorney Greg Edwards said there is a possibility that Thomas could face more charges, pending further investigation of the incident.
"Of course at this point the suspect is innocent until shown otherwise by the evidence that is going to be gathered during the course of this investigation, and then from that point we'll make a decision about how we will proceed ultimately with the resolution of this case," said Greg Edwards.
"If we have anybody in the public that has any information about what happened last night, we urge them to contact this department or the Dougherty County District Attorney's Office. This investigation is by no means complete," said Chief Don Cheek.
"Lt. Rouse is an 18-year veteran of the department. He was a superb officer, well experienced and this is just a tragedy for all of us in this community and for his family," said Cheek. "It's absolutely devastating, this is something that we all know it a potential. It's something that we all face day to day; we pray that it will never happen, unfortunately it does," said Chief Don Cheek.
The Department has brought in grief counselors to help the other officers.
"This is something that is difficult to deal with and we will do everything we can to make sure the officers get the follow-up they need and have resources they need to all work through this together. One of the things we do is we all work through this as a family," said Chief Don Cheek.
Lt. Rouse lived in Mitchell County and is survived by his wife, 13-year-old son, and 6-year-old daughter. Funeral Arrangements have not yet been made.
FOX 31 News will continue to update this breaking story as new developments take place.