Police and code enforcement officers who returned fire when a man shot at them in October have been cleared of any wrongdoing, and the case has been closed.
George Arthur Pryor, 61, of Rackley Street, was killed Oct. 28 when he fired a 12-gauge shotgun at officers responding to a civil matter.
A Bulloch County grand jury "no-billed" the case May 6, clearing Statesboro Code Enforcement Officer Eric Short and Statesboro police Lt. Anthony Gore of any wrongdoing, according to information from the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office.
Pryor sustained four gunshot wounds, according to autopsy reports, including two to the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and police logged evidence of more than 20 bullet holes from both the handguns and shotgun to Pryor's porch screen.
The officers were not injured.
A probe by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, along with an internal investigation by the Statesboro Police Department, also cleared Short and Gore of any wrongdoing regarding the incident.
Events leading up to the shooting
On Oct. 28, Pryor opened fire after Gore and Short responded to the scene where Pryor's van was being towed from a neighbor's property, according to Statesboro police reports released Friday as part of the case file regarding the shooting. The Statesboro Herald requested the reports under the Open Records Act.
Witnesses at the scene on Oct. 28 told the Herald that Pryor fired first after exiting his home with a gun. Incident reports state Pryor had been involved in an ongoing civil dispute with Albert Reddick, who owned the property where the van was kept, next to Pryor's home. Reddick had purchased the property at 319 Rackley St. in August and wanted to clear it.
Statesboro code enforcement agents also reported giving Pryor numerous warnings about the disabled van. Short reported Oct. 22 that Reddick filed a complaint about the van, and that Pryor acknowledged the fact that his van was on someone else's property and he intended to have it repaired and moved.
When a tow truck arrived at the scene Oct. 28, Pryor became upset and asked that the van be towed the short distance to his property, at 315 Rackley St., according to reports. However, he told officers he had no money to pay the wrecker bill and that he would not pay it.
As the wrecker driver began removal of the van, Pryor went inside his home and returned with a loaded 12-gauge pump action shotgun and began firing at the officers, reports said.
"Mr. Pryor went into his house and after some time, came out with a firearm and fired shots at me and Lt. Gore. We returned fire and I called for backup," Short stated in a report.
"... Mr. Pryor was able to obtain a firearm from the house and fired on us. Officer Short and I returned fire and requested backup," Gore said in a report of the incident.
Statesboro police Detective Sgt. James Winskey also filed a report after the incident, documenting his response to the scene, where he said he remained until the investigation and crime scene were turned over to the GBI.
It is policy to have the GBI, as an outside agency, investigate police-involved shootings, Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner said in a statement released shortly after the incident.
In his final report, Winskey stated that the officers were both cleared by the grand jury May 6. The grand jury "found that the officers were justified in use of deadly force and recommended no further action be taken."
The case was closed and "exceptionally cleared" July 7.
Reports released by police detailed the shooting, listing the call as beginning around 8:30 a.m. Oct. 28 when Short and the wrecker driver arrived at 319 Rackley Street, where the van was on Reddick's property.
It was around 9:30 a.m. when shots were fired, with Short and Gore firing back with their department-issued Glock 21 handguns after Pryor aimed and fired the shotgun, according to reports.
Short and Gore were placed on administrative leave during the investigation. Both, per department policy, underwent psychological examinations, according to reports.
Other encounters with police
Incident reports released regarding the incident included a civil dispute incident involving Pryor on March 31, 2008, where he complained about repairs to his vehicle and claimed an engine in his van had been switched by repair shops. He told police, according to that report, that the engine that had allegedly been swapped was a Cleveland 151 worth $150,000. Reporting officers estimated the engine value as being around $1,200. The repair shops accused of the switch told police they did not disturb the engine, and officers noted the bolts on the engine were rusty and appeared undisturbed.
On Dec. 21, 2011, Pryor was arrested for shooting at a woman who spurned his romantic advances, reports stated.
He was charged with simple assault, criminal use of an item with an altered identification mark, discharging a firearm on or near a public highway and reckless conduct after firing two shots at a woman's feet after she denied a proposition for sex, reports said.
The woman and Pryor were both behind a locked fence when officers arrived. Pryor ignored several demands from officers to put his hands up before finally complying, according to reports.
Open Records Act
This is the first time the Statesboro Police Department has released full details on the officer-involved shooting. The Statesboro Herald filed several Open Records Act requests after the initial incident report, which did indicate any shots were fired by anyone, was released.
In March, Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore and Turner issued a joint statement saying that the department had released all the information it was required to - the initial incident report - and would not release anything else until the investigation was complete.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.