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Former Edison officer indicted

MORGAN, Ga. -- A former Edison police officer has been indicted on two misdemeanor charges stemming from a November 2009 shooting death of a suspect.

James Kopkie surrendered Wednesday and is free on bond, South Georgia Judicial Circuit District Attorney Joe Mulholland said.

A Calhoun County grand jury indicted Kopkie on Aug. 6 for reckless conduct and involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Nov. 6, 2009, officer-related shooting that ended in the death of Chad Pierce.

"Our goal in this case is to make sure that justice is served and that this type of incident doesn't happen again," Mulholland said.

Kopkie's attorney, Tommy Duck, had said he would have no immediate comment on the charges until after he meets with Kopkie next week.

Pierce was shot to death following a high-speed chase from Arlington to Edison where he crashed in a residential neighborhood. At the time of the incident, investigators said they believed Pierce had traveled in excess of 90 mph at various points during the 20-mile chase.

Mike Lewis, special agent-in-charge of the GBI's Sylvester office -- which investigated the shooting -- said indications are that Kopkie fired after Pierce was seen reaching toward the glove box of the pickup truck. No gun was found inside the vehicle.

The dashboard-mounted camera of one of the police cars involved in the pursuit reportedly shows Kopkie and two other officers approaching the vehicle, with Kopkie the lone officer on the driver's side. At some point, the other officers see what they believe to be Pierce reaching for the glove box and attempt to step back, with one of the officers falling.

According to the indictment, Kopkie is accused of "consciously disregarding a substantial risk that his act would cause harm and endanger the safety of other persons ... by discharging his firearm several times into and at the vehicle occupied by Chadwick Pierce."

That act, according to the indictment, constituted a "gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation."

Each charge carries with it a maximum penalty of one year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

The chase that night wasn't Pierce's first run-in with police on the highways.

According to federal court documents, Pierce was charged with DUI, speeding, open container, driving on a suspended or revoked license, and lying to police in relation to a Nov. 13, 2007 incident at Fort Benning.

Pierce pleaded guilty to the DUI, the speeding, open container and false statements charge and was sentenced to 12 months probation. The U.S. Attorney's office agreed to drop the suspended license charge.

Pierce was also ordered to participate in a substance abuse program under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office.

While on probation, Pierce was arrested by U.S. marshals after a bench warrant was issued for him by U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth when he violated the terms of his probation after being arrested for simple battery in Leesburg on June 10, 2007. He pleaded guilty and was remanded to the custody of the U.S. marshals for a period of time.