Putnam County Sheriff defends decision to stop scammers by shooting at truck tire

PUTNAM COUNTY, Ga. — The Putnam County Sheriff is defending his decision to fire his weapon to hold two men at gunpoint until deputies arrived to his property Saturday.

“I’ve got half a dozen e-mails today calling me everything but the child of God,” said Sheriff Howard Sills.

He said the scenario unfolded as he was doing yard work at his home Saturday. He said two men, Jeremy Thomas and Antoine Brown, pulled up in a pickup truck with pine straw in the back for sale.

The sheriff said the men asked if he wanted to buy some, and he said no. He said he’s heard of scammers around town trying to sell straw, laying it and charging more in the end.

He asked if they had a license to solicit door-to-door.

The pair said they did not.

“I said, ‘Well, you’re violating the ordinance. You’re going to have to stay here a minute until deputies come to write you a ticket’,” said Sills.

Sills said both men did not have a driver’s licenses on them, and he told them as long as the computer shows they have no warrants and accurate documentation, they can leave with the citation.

Turns out, Thomas is wanted in Gwinnett County for theft. Brown was on probation for criminal trespass in Jefferson County.

Both had suspended driver’s licenses. The sheriff said both had long arrest records. Brown’s record included felony drug charges, aggravated assault, and aggravated battery. Thomas has a history of arrests related to battery, parole violation, cruelty to animals and shoplifting.

The pair made a run for it.

That’s when Sills said he pulled out his pistol, shot at the front tire of the truck and the pair stopped. They got on the ground and a deputy arrived to arrest them.

“I knew exactly what I was doing, and I’d do it again,” said Sills. “It was appropriate in that scenario with what I was doing, I would not have done that if it was an occupied street with people around or something like that. "

He said the ammunition he was using did not penetrate the tire, but the men still stopped.

District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale is one of those with the power to call on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the case.

“What this amounts to in short is, two criminals made a really poor choice to show up at the sheriff’s doorstep, and what resulted was two criminals were removed from the streets and hopefully prevented from perpetrating further crime,” said Barksdale.

The Governor and Superior Court Judge could also request a GBI investigation.

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