Watch video of Varsity Apartments resident describe incident:
A complaint about loud music Wednesday night ended with a Statesboro Police officer wounded and a Varsity Apartments man dead.
Statesboro Police Officer Charles Brown responded to the apartment complex across from the Highway 301 South Old Register Road entrance to Georgia Southern off Rucker Lane around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday. He confronted a man more than a dozen neighbors said later was Eric Pringle. After a brief conversation, Pringle pulled a gun and fired shots at Brown. The officer fell and Pringle walked to the other end of the apartment complex.
Pringle was shot and killed minutes later by Bulloch County Sheriff's Deputy Rey Rodriguez, who responded to Brown's radio call for assistance after he was shot, said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge Micah Ward.
Brown's armored vest stopped the bullet and he was taken to East Georgia Regional Medical Center. He stayed overnight for observation and was released Thursday morning.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is handling the case due to a law enforcement officer's involvement where use of force was necessary, he said. Law enforcement has not officially released Pringle's name as the man who was killed or as the man who fired shots at Brown.
"It's common for us to investigate (cases such as the shooting). It's good for the requesting agency and the public to have an outside agency investigate," Ward said.
Witnesses said Pringle was known to play his car stereo loudly as he sat alone, drinking and sometimes crying. Complaints had been lodged about his music, and Thursday morning, a notice dated Sept. 21 was tacked to his apartment door regarding the complaints.
After Brown responded to the disturbance call, "there was a brief struggle," Ward said. "There were shots fired, and a call went out for assistance."
According to eyewitnesses at the apartment complex, the officer approached Pringle who was sitting in his SUV in the parking lot outside his apartment with music playing and drinking alcohol, they said.
After a brief conversation with the officer, witnesses said Pringle pulled a gun, loaded it quickly and fired. One witness who lives next door to Pringle said the officer fell, shot in the chest and grazed by a bullet fired at his head. He lay on the ground and called "Shots fired, shots fired" and notified police headquarters he was shot.
Witnesses said the officer then lay on the ground, not moving as if he was dead.
Brown's life was saved by the "ballistic body armor" he wore, Ward said.
Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner said the vest did stop the bullet, and Brown also suffered a graze to his cheek by the second bullet.
Several Statesboro Police officers, Georgia State Patrol troopers and Bulloch County Sheriff's deputies arrived for backup after the injured officer called for help. According to several witnesses, all who asked to remain anonymous, Pringle walked from the scene where he shot the officer, heading south through the apartment complex, and fired a shot into a vehicle they said belonged to the apartment manager.
A bullet hole was seen in the rear of a gray Toyota 4-Runner, with police tape attached to the back. Ward said the investigation had yet to determine the circumstances surrounding the gunshot to the gray Toyota 4Runner.
Varsity resident Beatrice Daniels said she heard the first shots as she was watching television. She said she heard five or six more come from the vicinity of a wooded area across Rucker Lane from the apartment complex a minute or so after the first shots.
"(The shots) sure go my attention," Daniels said. "I stuck my head out for a minute and stuck it right back inside when I saw all the police blue lights. I sure was scared."
Ward said Pringle went into some woodlands near the complex, and when responding law enforcement confronted him, "there was more gunfire." Rodriguez fired the shot that killed Pringle, he said.
Witnesses said after Pringle was killed, members of Statesboro's Emergency Response Team sent a stun grenade into Pringle's apartment and went inside to ensure no one else was there.
Ward said investigators are not yet releasing details of Pringle's gun. An autopsy is being conducted to determine details of Pringle's death as well, he said.
The shooting incident was the first in possibly 30 years where a Statesboro Police officer was shot, said Statesboro Police Commander J. R. Holloway.
But in 2001, Bulloch County Sheriff's Deputy Wilbur Berry was killed when he and other deputies confronted a man who was hiding out in a building off Simons Road. The suspect was killed by deputy gunfire during the struggle.
A few years later, Bulloch County Sheriff's Sgt. Jimmy Billings was standing in the roadway on Old Register Road during a chase where law enforcement tried stopping a man in a car. The suspect tried to run Billings over, and Billings fired into the car at close range, killing the driver, said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson.
He said Rodriguez is off until Monday, and his work schedule and other needs will be addressed Monday. "As far as I am concerned he can come back to work when he feels like it," he said.
Turner said Brown would remain off duty for a few days and may return for duty when he is ready to come back to work."
He also praised the cooperative efforts of the Bulloch County Sheriff's Department, Georgia State Patrol, Statesboro Police and Georgia Southern University in responding to the call for assistance. The cooperation is a result of the recent mutual aid agreement that all local law enforcement agencies signed, he said. "They were all very efficient in this emergency situation."
Holloway said he was thankful that Brown was only slightly injured. "Thank God for that blessing," he said. "You never know when it's going to meet you around the corner." But he also expressed sadness for Pringle and his family.
"I'm so glad we're not singing a different song today," he said. "But I also have sympathy for the guy on the other side."
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414. Executive Editor James Healy contributed to this report.