CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — A Cherokee County highway was shut down for an extended period of time Sunday after a search by land and air ended with gunfire and one of two suspects injured, authorities said.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, this all started when a Ball Ground police officer attempted to stop a vehicle with two people inside that matched the description of suspects wanted for multiple crimes in Alabama.
The GBI said the car didn't stop and the officer chased the vehicle. Shots were fired at the officer, but the officer was not hurt.
The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office announced around 3:30 p.m. that it had closed down Highway 5 from Howell Bridge Road to East Cherokee Drive as deputies and other law enforcement officers were searching for the wanted suspects.
Sheriff's Office Lt. Jay Howard Baker said eventually, they got out at 137 Leo Taylor Lane - the address of LAT Apparell - near the city of Ball Ground.
"The suspect vehicle drove their car into the woods, the suspects fled into the woods," Baker said. "Shortly after they entered the woods, shots were fired, so obviously, we've called in the cavalry."
Georgia State Patrol troopers and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents soon joined the search along with local SWAT teams, other police departments, and at least one helicopter.
Baker said the state patrol helicopter was able to keep watch over the suspects until law enforcement was able to catch up.
"As they were being taken into custody, one shot was fired - or a shot was fired - and one of the suspects was struck," he said. "Now, the other suspect was taken into custody. He was not injured."
According the GBI, Hunter Caleb Kirkland of Taylor, Alabama, was shot by a Cherokee County SWAT member after he failed to comply with verbal commands. Kirkland was allegedly armed with a rifle.
Baker said the SWAT team member fired the shot after a roughly three-hour standoff in which the suspects had fired several rounds.
Baker said the men, 30-year-old Jeffrey Danner and 27-year-old Kirkland, were believed to be wanted out of Bullock and Barbour counties in Alabama.
"It's my understanding they involved some possible home invasions - shots were fired, some vehicles were taken," Baker said. "But I don't know about any injuries that happened."
Because the shooting involved law enforcement, the GBI is now investigating as an independent agency - a common practice when officers are involved in shootings in Georgia.
The GBI said Danner was located within the wooded area behind LAT Sportswear and taken into custody.
Danner is currently in custody at the Cherokee Adult Detention Center charged with four counts of Aggravated Assault Against a Police Officer, Fleeing and Attempting to Elude Police and Simple Battery Against a Police Officer. He is being held without bond.
Kirkland, who was shot during the incident, was moved from Wellstar Kennestone Hospital to Grady Hospital where he remains stable. His exact condition is not known. The GBI said he also faces aggravated assault charges at a minimum in Georgia. Both men will face additional charges stemming from the alleged crimes in Alabama.
The GBI and Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office are coordinating investigative efforts with Alabama authorities. The GBI plans to hand over its file to the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit District Attorney for review once the investigation is completed.
This is the 13th police shooting that the GBI has been requested to investigate this year.