DOUGHERTY COUNTY -- An armed robber with a criminal history deprived two children and a spouse of a father and husband Thursday night.
Dougherty County Police Lt. Cliff Rouse, 39, was killed by gunshots fired from a 9mm Glock handgun at about 10 p.m. as he attempted to arrest a man for robbing the Pitt Stop convenience store, county police Chief Don Cheek said.
Rouse is survived by a 13-year-old son, a 6-year-old daughter and his wife.
Dontravious Raynard Thomas, 20, is in Dougherty County Jail with no bail set, a jail spokeswoman said. He gave no permanent address.
Thomas is charged with three felonies: murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a certain crime.
Rouse, a Camilla resident, was the first officer to die in the line of duty in the at least 80-year-old department, Cheek said.
"This is a tragedy. Lt. Rouse was a great officer and person," Cheek said. "It is all part of the danger we face when we put on a badge and a gun to serve the community. He died serving his community last night."
The case remains under investigation, and more charges could be filed, said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards. After the evidence is collected and reviewed, Edwards could ask for the death penalty against Thomas.
All homicide cases are important, Edwards said, adding that the death of an officer as he does his duty to protect the community is deserving of justice, perhaps including death.
"The aggravating circumstances that are involved with the death penalty are present in this case," Edwards said. "Aggravated assault and death of a police officer are just the tip of the iceberg of aggravating circumstances."
Cheek said Thomas was on felony probation after a burglary conviction for robbing the same convenience store last year. Further details of Thomas' criminal history were unavailable because of the holiday.
According to police reports and Cheek, who spoke at an 11 a.m. press conference Friday at county police headquarters, Rouse responded to an armed robbery emergency dispatch to the convenience store at 3225 Sylvester Road.
When Rouse arrived, he saw a man running with a gun. Rouse an 18-year, seasoned veteran officer, did not hesitate to follow the gunman into the nearby Nob Hill mobile home park.
Shots were exchanged, and Rouse suffered a wound to the leg and a probably fatal shot to his abdomen just below his protective vest. He radioed that he needed an ambulance.
Multiple police agencies scrambled to the scene. Uninjured, Thomas hid under a trailer at another nearby mobile home park, B&S Estates, where he was found by a county police officer, arrested and taken to jail.
The Glock, an undisclosed amount of money from the robbery and other evidence were seized by police. A clerk at the Pitt Stop said Friday at about 10 a.m. that no one was injured at the store during the robbery and declined further comment.
People started sharing their feelings by bringing plants and food for Rouse and his fellow officers to the county police headquarters at 2106 Habersham Road at about 11 a.m. Friday.
"I was a police officer at APD (Albany Police Department) for 23 years," said a man, who wished to remain anonymous, carrying cookies and cake into the headquarters. "I know what the officers are going through. I want them to know we care."
Cheek said his department would tap into its resources such as counseling and chaplains to help with the effects the death of a fellow officer may have on officers.
"We have the resources to work through this thing together," Cheek said. "And we will work through it as a family."
Persons wishing to know how to show their appreciation to the Rouse family and the police can call (229) 430-6600.
Cheek said he also wanted to thank the following law enforcement agencies for their help in the case: Albany Police Department, Dougherty County Sheriff's Office, Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Dougherty County School System Police Department, Lee County Sheriff's Office, Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, U.S. Marshall's Office, Lee County Correctional K-9, and the Albany State University Police Department.