Officer-involved shootings in Georgia total 40 so far this year after 3 incidents within 3 hours

When her husband slashed three of her tires so she couldn’t leave, Nicole Cashell called police. Within the hour, Christopher Cashell was dead inside the couple’s middle Georgia home after pointing a gun at a deputy, who fired four shots, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday.

“You can’t point a gun at someone and think they’re not going to react,” Special Agent J.T. Ricketson said.

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The officer-involved shooting was the first in more than three years for Houston County, Ricketson said. But it was one of three in Georgia within three hours on Monday that brought the total number of officer-involved shootings in the state to 40 so far this year. That rate means Georgia will likely match 2016 numbers, when officers shot 77 people, killing 24 of them, according to numbers provided by the GBI, which investigates use-of-force cases.

The latest incidents in Georgia follow a recent acquittal of the Minnesota officer who shot and killed Philando Castile — a story that made national headlines in part because of live video footage Castile’s girlfriend streamed on Facebook.

Castile, 32, died one year ago on July 6 and got the nation’s attention because he appeared to be complying with the officer’s orders. St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez was charged with manslaughter, but acquitted in June.

The day before Castile’s death, 37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge police officers, but neither were charged.

Cases like the shootings that killed Castile and Sterling again ignited the debate over when officers are justified in using force.

In Georgia, the three latest cases remain under investigation.

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Nearly one-third of the officer-involved shootings happened in metro Atlanta, including 15 in Fulton County, in 2016. The Athens area recorded the next highest, with 10, according to the GBI. But Monday, the three incidents were in different areas of the state, ranging from northwest Georgia, to the coastal area and Houston, in middle Georgia.

The string of shootings began in Walker County, where a deputy was stabbed several times by a man he was attempting to arrest, Sheriff Steve Wilson said.

At 4:47 p.m., a resident of the Lakeview community called 911 to report a suspicious man on his street, Wilson said Wednesday. Cpl. J.D. Holland was dispatched to the area and found the man, later identified as James Allen Johnson, but Johnson ran. When Holland caught up with the man, Johnson attacked him, Wilson said.

“He pulled out a hunting knife and started stabbing Cpl. Holland,” Wilson said.

The deputy was stabbed twice in the left thigh, once in the left arm, in the back and had cuts on his hand.

“He said he never saw the knife,” Wilson said. “He felt the impact, but he didn’t realize what it was.”

Holland was able to fire two shots at Johnson, who later underwent surgery and survived. Then, Holland pleaded for help from other deputies, who helped control his bleeding before Holland was taken to the hospital. His injuries were not life-threatening, Wilson said.

Johnson, released from state prison in May 2016, waived extradition and was being returned to Walker County on Wednesday. He has been charged with aggravated assault against a peace officer and a parole violation.

Within an hour of the Walker shooting, another officer-involved shooting happened in Houston County, where a deputy told Christopher Cashell to stay outside while his wife gathered her belongings, Ricketson said. But when Cashell went inside the home for the second time, a deputy followed him and watched as Cashell grabbed a gun, police said.

“Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” the deputy yelled, according to Ricketson.

Instead, Cashell pointed his gun at the deputy, who fired four shots, striking Cashell three times, Ricketson said. Cashell died at the scene. The Houston deputy was not injured, and GBI investigators were called to the home to conduct an investigation.

“Our role in this entire thing is to be the finders of facts,” Ricketson said.

About 200 miles away, GBI agents were also called to investigate an officer-involved shooting that happened in Glynn County shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, Special Agent Stacy Carson said.

Residents of a Brunswick apartment complex alerted an off-duty officer that a couple was fighting, Carson said. David Leon Ball was stabbing a woman, and the officer shot Ball, who died from injuries after being taken to the hospital for treatment. The woman, whose name was not released, was in stable condition, police said.

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