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Savannah police mourn fallen sergeant
10-year department veteran killed by robbery suspect
sergeant shooting
Savannah police Officer Douglas Thomas, center, in plain clothes, wipes an eye as he stands between police Maj. Robert Gavin, left, and Lt. Gregory Mitchell during a memorial event Monday, May 13, 2019, for an officer killed in a weekend shooting. Authorities say Thomas was wounded in the leg and Sgt. Kelvin Ansari was fatally shot while responding to an armed robbery call Saturday, May 11, 2019. The suspect, Edward Fuller III, was shot and killed by police. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)

SAVANNAH — Police Sgt. Kelvin Ansari had just arrived for his evening shift when he greeted Lt. Gregory Mitchell with a joke and laugh. A few hours later, the lieutenant was driving his co-worker's wife to the hospital after Ansari got shot while responding to an armed robbery call.

Ansari, 50, didn't survive.

The patrol sergeant's fatal shooting late Saturday left his 500 fellow officers in the Savannah Police Department in stunned disbelief. They gathered Monday outside police headquarters — along with the mayor, district attorney, local judges and other officials — to lay bouquets of flowers atop a police SUV in memory of the fallen officers.

Mitchell had known Ansari for nearly a decade and was his direct supervisor in the Central Precinct that patrols neighborhoods to the south of Savannah's downtown historic district.

"It's almost unbelievable," Mitchell said. "We're trying to maintain because we still have a job to do ... Our hearts are grieving. Our hearts are heavy."

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the state's top law enforcement agency, is investigating Ansari's killing. A second officer, Douglas Thomas, was wounded by a gunshot to the leg. He attended the memorial event Monday in civilian clothes, dabbing tears as he stood at Mitchell's side.

Sgt. Kelvin Ansari
Sgt. Kelvin Ansari

The suspected gunman, 49-year-old Edward Fuller III, also died after being shot by police.

The two officers were shot during a hunt for an armed robbery suspect who stole money late Saturday from a person leaving a barber shop, the GBI said in a news release. After committing the robbery, Fuller sat in a nearby vehicle "unknown to the officers," the GBI said, when Ansari approached.

As the officer got close to the parked vehicle, the GBI said, Fuller got out and began shooting — striking both Ansari and Thomas. The bureau said Fuller fled to the backyard of a nearby home, where he was shot as he pointed a handgun at officers as they closed in on him.

Chatham County court records show Fuller had at least three prior felony convictions dating back to 1990, when he received probation after pleading guilty to auto theft and simple battery. In 2016, Fuller was sentenced to a year in jail after he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and obstruction of an officer.

Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter said Ansari had worked in the department for 10 years. He became an officer after retiring from the Army after 21 years of military service. The fallen officer was married with four children, ages 5 to 25.

Sgt. Dana Purvis recalled working with Ansari when he was trainee. Within a decade he rose quickly through the ranks to become a patrol supervisor.

Purvis, Savannah's officer in charge of security for special events, said Ansari was always quick to offer help during busy road races and other popular events such as the city's sprawling St. Patrick's Day parade.

Ansari also liked to help families in need in the neighborhoods he patrolled, Purvis said, like donating and wrapping gifts for children at Christmas.

"He was just always that sergeant that was always giving and caring," Purvis said. "You could never say a bad word about him."