While the search expanded Wednesday to find the two escaped prisoners accused of killing two Georgia correctional officers, family members and colleagues remembered the pair killed in the line of duty.
“The families are struggling just like you’d expect they would be,” Georgia Department of Corrections assistant Commissioner Ricky Myrick said at an afternoon press conference. “They’re taking this hard just as we are.”
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Early Tuesday, two inmates, Ricky Dubose and Donnie Russell Rowe, were on a prison bus when the two were able to overpower the officers, according to investigators. Sgt. Curtis Billue, 58, and Sgt. Christopher Monica, 42, were both shot and killed along Ga. 16 in Putnam County, between Eatonton and Sparta. Since then, Dubose and Rowe have been on the run, hijacking at least two vehicles and launching a nationwide search.
“We are still desperately looking for these two individuals,” Putnam Sheriff Howard Sills said. “They are armed with 9 mm pistols that were taken from these correctional officers. They are dangerous beyond description. If anyone sees them or comes into contact, they need to call 911 immediately.”
Dubose and Rowe, who were cellmates, first stole a green Honda and tossed the driver’s cell phone, leaving 31 other prisoners locked on the bus, police said. Later Tuesday, the search for the two shifted about 25 miles north to the city of Madison, where Sills said the men burglarized a house.
Two men fitting their descriptions were reportedly seen in a Family Dollar store less than a mile away. A white, 2008 Ford F-250 with Georgia license plate BCX 5372 was stolen in Morgan County, and investigators believed the fugitives used it as a getaway vehicle.
Meanwhile, the slain officers were being remembered as dedicated public servants devoted to their families. Billue and Monica were the 21st and 22nd officers to be shot and killed in the country this year, and the fourth and fifth in the state.
Monica was a married father of two daughters, ages 16 and 29, and had two grandchildren, ages 9 and 10, a friend posted on a Go Fund Me page. Monica had taken on extra shifts to help support his family, including his wife who had recent health issues.
“He prayed daily for these criminals and sadly he ended up dying at the hands of two yesterday,” the fundraiser organizer posted.
Billue’s niece, Stephanie Bridges, remembers visiting her uncle during summers at his home in McIntyre, Ga. His personality was a mix of funny and serious, she said.
“He would always take you to do fun things,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She recalled “going to get ice cream at the corner store, going to buy a toy or something your parent wouldn’t buy but your uncle would.”
Billue had worked for the Georgia Department of Corrections for 10 years. He served at three facilities in Milledgeville and Jackson before transferring to the transportation unit in Milledgeville in 2013, according to the department. Monica had been with the DOC for eight years.
Billue served in the U.S. Army for 11 years, from 1981 to 1992, and was a captain in the infantry branch, an Army spokesman confirmed.
“He was the uncle in the military that you looked to as the big, strong uncle,” said Bridges, who now lives in Texas.
He received several awards for his service, including the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal and National Defense Service Medal.
Billue was one of eight siblings and had two sons. Bridges said the family is remaining private and holding up “as best they can.”