A man wanted for killing a Georgia police officer and wounding another was found dead Thursday, apparently fatally shooting himself before a SWAT team stormed a home where the suspect was hiding, authorities said Thursday.
This undated photo released by the Americus Police Department shows Minquell Kennedy Lembrick, suspect in connection with the fatal shooting of one police officer and the wounding of another. (Americus Police Department via AP)
The manhunt for 32-year-old Minquell Lembrick ended a day after a gunman killed Americus police Officer Nicholas Smarr and critically wounded Officer Jody Smith of Georgia Southwestern State University. Both officers were shot as they responded to a domestic disturbance call in Americus, a rural city 130 miles south of Atlanta. The shooting happened at an apartment complex near campus, prompting university officials to place the school on lockdown.
Police identified Lembrick as a suspect in the shootings and offered a $70,000 reward for information leading to his capture. The SWAT team was sent to the house in Americus after authorities received a tip, said Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Nelly Miles.
SWAT officers emerged from the home shortly after entering. Americus Police Chief Mark Scott told a news conference they found Lembrick’s body inside. He said the first officers on scene heard a gunshot inside before the SWAT team arrived.
Lembrick died from “what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Scott said, adding the man was positively identified as Lembrick.
Lembrick had an outstanding arrest warrant charging him with kidnapping and other counts when Smarr and Smith encountered him Wednesday morning at an apartment complex where a domestic dispute had been reported, Scott had said previously. But the officers didn’t know whom they were dealing with when they responded to the 911 call.
After the shootings, Smith was airlifted with critical injuries to a Macon hospital, where he underwent surgery. He remained in critical condition Thursday, said Georgia Southwestern State University President Charles Patterson. Patterson said he visited Smith’s family at the hospital Thursday morning.
“We will continue to hope and pray that his condition improves,” Patterson said.
Smith and Smarr had been friends since grade school and were sharing a home in Sumter County at the time of the shooting, said Lt. Chuck Hanks of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, where both had worked previously as deputies.
So when Smith heard the domestic violence call and that Smarr was en route, he ran to join him even though other Americus police officers were already on the way, Chief Scott said.
“He heard that call over the radio and he took it upon himself to respond and back up his friend,” Scott said. “I can’t say enough about them. They are model officers. They’re both heroes in my opinion.”
Sumter County Sheriff Pete Smith told reporters both officers were engaged to be married to their fiancees in the coming months.
“It’s tough,” Hanks said. “We’re a small community. You see these people every day. You work with them every day.”
Authorities initially gave different spellings for the first names of both Smith and Lembrick, but said Thursday that they had confirmed corrected spellings for each. While Lembrick was black and both officers were white, nothing indicates race was a factor in the shootings, said Miles of the GBI.
Within an hour of the shootings Wednesday, posts on Lembrick’s Facebook page appeared to indicate he didn’t want to be taken alive. One message posted from the account read: “other life gone not going to jail.”
It was soon followed by a four-second Facebook Live video showing a young man partly concealed by shadows saying, “I’m gonna miss y’all folk, man.”
Miles with the GBI confirmed the Facebook page was Lembrick’s. It was taken down soon after the messages were posted.