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DA vows to vigorously prosecute 'Run or Gun' offenders

In this 2011 file photo, the patrol car of Albany Police Officer Terry Lewis Flemming sits crushed and burned at the base of a tree. Flemming was killed while attempting to pursue to suspects in an armed robbery.

In this 2011 file photo, the patrol car of Albany Police Officer Terry Lewis Flemming sits crushed and burned at the base of a tree. Flemming was killed while attempting to pursue to suspects in an armed robbery.

ALBANY, Ga. — Plagued with a growing number of instances where gunmen have fled from law enforcement officers, Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards is vowing to “vigorously prosecute” anyone who endangers the life of law enforcement or the public while attempting to elude capture.

In a lengthy press release issued to the media Wednesday morning, Edwards used several examples, including a chase that ultimately caused the death of Albany Police Officer Terry Lewis-Flemming in October 2011, to illustrate his point that armed offenders are increasingly endangering the public by trying to flee when confronted by police.

“The office of the Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards and the A.D.D.U. believe that these continued actions of defendants are putting the safety of every single person in Dougherty County in significant risk of receiving serious injuries or death,” the release states. “It would be unconscionable to continue down the same path of prosecuting these criminals as has been done in the past as these defendants are continuing to put at risk mothers, fathers, children grandparents and all other people that live here.

“That changes now. Drug dealers and those who endanger the public safety are hereby warned.”

Edwards is unveiling operation “Run or Gun,” an initiative by his office and the drug unit that will charge anyone who commits a felony and who attempts to elude with felony counts of every crime they commit while on the run. His office will also act to seize through the civil statutes any cars, homes, weapons or other assets used in the crime.

Edwards is asking judges to deny bond for anyone arrested for felony drug or gun offenses and is pledging to not offer plea bargains or deals to any defendant so charged.

“In other words, we will be more aggressively dealing with those individuals to deter that kind of conduct,” Edwards said.

One of the examples Edwards used in his news release involved an unnamed defendant who was indicted June 12 after he allegedly attempted to flee from members of the drug unit, cutting through downtown intersections and red lights before fleeing into south Albany. Eventually the suspect, a nine-time convicted felon, evaded police in the Rawson Circle area, but was later apprehended.

When asked how Edwards would be able to convince the same judges who let that defendant out of jail nine different times following felony convictions to suddenly start denying bonds and imposing longer prison terms, Edwards said that he would hope that the judges would understand the significance of the problem and value the merits of the program.

“It’s always in the judge’s discretion on bond and sentencing, but we have let them know that it will be our policy to strenuously insist that these people are put away,” Edwards said.