Statesboro Police Department officers are wearing shrouded badges this week after the death of an advanced patrol officer and his wife early Sunday in what police officials described as an apparent murder-suicide.
Shortly after 2:30 on Easter morning, Statesboro police officers responded to reports of possible shots fired at Copper Beech Townhomes. Upon arrival, officers found APO Ian Huggins with multiple gunshot wounds. Moments after officers entered the home, Huggins' wife Rebecca Boyett Huggins took her own life with one gunshot to the head, stated the Police Department's first news release Sunday afternoon. The two were married less than two months earlier, on Feb. 14.
The Emergency Medical Service and officers on the scene tried to revive both Ian Huggins, 52, and Rebecca Huggins, 46, and both were transported to East Georgia Regional Medical Center. But life-saving efforts were not successful, and the Statesboro Police Department announced that it had turned the investigation over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
An SPD incident summary from 2:36 a.m. Sunday listed nine assisting officers as part of the response as well as identifying the reporting officer and an SPD detective.
"The response to the scene of the crime was incredibly professional," Statesboro Chief of Police Mike Broadhead said Monday. "I was really proud of the folks, the way they handled the situation that's so near to them, to have somebody that they personally know involved in an act of violence like that and act as professionally as they did. I was really impressed by that and by those initial responding officers."
Asked whether the shooting of Ian Huggins may have been a case of mistaken identity on the part of Rebecca Huggins, Broadhead said there had been "unfortunately, volatile history" and that he was confident in the characterization of the deaths as a murder-suicide after seeing evidence.
"I can't give you the details of that because it's not our investigation, but I can tell you that I've personally seen the evidence and it's overwhelmingly obvious what happened," Broadhead said.
Only one firearm was involved, he confirmed, and said it was not Ian Huggins' duty pistol.
But the investigation was turned over to the GBI to make sure there is no bias, Broadhead said. The first news release expressed his department's thanks to both the GBI and the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office for providing assistance and support.
He said he is also proud of the way that SPD employees and others have pulled together and looked for ways "to honor Ian's memory and help and support each other" but that this will be a tough week for the department.
"Once the adrenalin wears off, then that quiet reflection time comes, and that can be a time that can be pretty painful for people," Broadhead said. "You know, he was a friend to a lot of people here, and certainly his workmates that have enjoyed working with him for the last four and a half years, they'll have some pain as they reflect upon that. But that is part of the process of this thing we call life, and we'll work together to get through this and to continue on with our mission."
By Sunday night, the words "APO Ian Huggins End of Watch: 4/1/2018" appeared on a photo of him at the top of the department's Facebook page. The page also carried an image of a badge crossed by a black band, called a shroud, bearing Huggins' badge number, 214. Fellow officers have now shrouded their badges.
One announcement there stated: "We would like to ask everyone to keep our Statesboro Police Department family in your thoughts and prayers. Ian was a good officer and an even better friend, and we feel his loss deeply. Our hearts are broken."
A funeral for Ian Huggins is being planned in southern Florida, where his previous wife and their two children, ages 16 and 10, live. Huggins grew up in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, and his mother and two sisters are also South Florida residents, Broadhead said. He had talked to family members about livestreaming video of the service for viewing in the Statesboro police headquarters.
"Our intention is to sort of attend the service remotely for everybody in the agency that would like to do that, and then we'll probably have a small memorial of our own," Broadhead said.
The service will probably be held later this week, he said.
Life Saving Award
Huggins, who began his law enforcement career with the Statesboro Police Department in May 2013, "received numerous Letters of Commendation for outstanding and proactive police work and many letters of appreciation from members of the public recognizing him for his professionalism and compassion," stated a further SPD social media posting. It noted that he received one of the department's highest honors, the Life Saving Award, and was a member of the department's Honor Guard.
The Life Saving Award was presented to Huggins because he, another SPD officer and a Bulloch County Sheriff's Office deputy pulled a man from a burning car after a crash in November 2016, Broadhead said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.