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Old 12-31-2004, 08:42 AM
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Post Article: (UPDATE) 2 Suspects arrested for shooting of Jackson County Police Officer

2 arrested in death

Suspects face murder charges in shooting of police officer



By DEBBIE GILBERT
The Times




A Flowery Branch man is one of two suspects charged in the fatal shooting of Pendergrass police officer Chris Ruse.

Richard Alexander Whitaker, 26, of 4720 Melbourne Trail, is being held in the Jackson County jail along with Nolan Leon Chauvin IV, 18, of Dacula.

Both are charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.

The shooting occurred shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday, when Ruse tried to stop a 1998 GMC Sierra pickup for a traffic violation on U.S. 129 in Pendergrass. The driver refused to pull over and initiated a high-speed chase, heading north, officials said.

Ruse called for backup and was soon joined by another Pendergrass officer and a Jackson County Sheriff's Office deputy. The chase ended when the pickup lost control and overturned near Pond Fork Church Road in Talmo. Ruse was shot as he approached the wrecked truck, officials said.

The other two officers pulled Chauvin out of the vehicle. Whitaker, despite suffering what appeared to be a minor gunshot wound, fled the scene on foot but was captured after a brief manhunt, officials said.

Ruse, 45, of Winder, was pronounced dead at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is handling the case, would not comment Thursday on how Whitaker got shot, nor would they disclose which of the suspects shot Ruse.

But Jackson County Sheriff Stan Evanssaid Whitaker was believed to be the one who wielded the shotgun.

"We think it was a simultaneous exchange of gunfire, and that Officer Ruse was killed almost instantly," said Evans.

He added that an autopsy was being performed as part of the investigation.

Evans said it was the first time in recent memory that an area police officer had been shot to death in the line of duty.

"Law enforcement is a brotherhood like no other. This has put everyone in a somber mood," he said. "Our own officer pulled up to the scene just as the shooting took place. We've sent him home. He's pretty shook up."

Ruse joined the Pendergrass force a few months ago. The town, which had a population of 431 in the 2000 Census, started its police department in late 2002 and had seven patrol officers, four full-time and three part-time.

At 3 p.m.Thursday, the men accused of murdering Ruse appeared before Jackson County chief magistrate judge Billy Chandler. When asked whether they had sufficient intellectual capacity to understand the charges against them, Chauvin, who turned 18 on Dec. 15, answered that he had a 10th-grade education. Whitaker said he has completed two years of college.

Both men waived their right to a court-appointed attorney.

Chandler said because of the seriousness of the charges against the suspects, he would not set bond for their release. He did not schedule a date for a preliminary hearing.

GBI spokeswoman Vicki Metz-Vickerysaid nine agents, five from Athens and four from the regional office in White County, are continuing to investigate the case.

Because of the crime-scene investigation, the Georgia Department of Transportation closed both lanes of U.S. 129 at the Hall/Jackson county line for more than eight hours, reopening the road shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday.
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