Injured Banks County deputy 'in good shape' after shooting

- New details have been released following a sad series of events last week that ended in the death of a man who shot and injured a deputy, as well as an FBI agent. 

Monday morning, Banks County Sheriff Carlton Speed identified the injured deputy as Robert Wilkins and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced two additional arrests have been made in the case. 

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It all started last Wednesday afternoon after an attempted robbery and kidnapping at the Atlanta Dragway on East Ridgeway Road. Investigators said suspect Avery Richard was in the process of kidnapping a woman from the facility, and once he took her outside he could hear police sirens, so he pushed her back inside and took off with her vehicle. 

"The victim in Banks County is traumatized," Speed said. 

According to Sheriff Speed, deputies spotted the stolen vehicle and tried to make an arrest in the parking lot of the Tanger Outlets. Instead, Richard opened fired and shot Deputy Wilkins before running across Interstate 85 and into a residential area.

Wilkins, a retired Fulton County fireman, was in his vehicle when he was shot, but thankfully he was wearing a ballistic vest, which is being credited for saving his life. He's since been released from the hospital and is recovering at home. 

"He's in good shape," said Speed, noting Wilkins has worked for the Banks County Sheriff's Office for about eight months. 

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The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said about two miles from the Tanger Outlets shopping complex, Richard kidnapped a woman at gunpoint and forced her to drive him to Atlanta. She sustained minor injuries during the incident.

Sheriff Speed said there was a major break in the case Thursday evening, thanks to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, where Dustin Heuatt, 29, had been taken into custody. Heuatt's accused of a being a co-conspirator in the armed robbery at the Atlanta Dragway, and has been charged for conspiracy to commit armed robbery as well as conspiracy to commit kidnapping. 

"Preliminary indications are that Richard and Heuatt were there to steal a car, and it escalated from there," Sheriff Speed said. 

The GBI said James Askew, 26, was also arrested and charged with aiding and abetting. 

Following Heuatt's arrest, investigators worked through the night and into Friday morning. They obtained search warrants at a home in Franklin County, which led them to identify Richard as the suspect they were searching for. 

Arrest warrants for Richard were secured Friday afternoon, at which time the FBI and GBI had started looking at an address on Oldknow Drive in northwest Atlanta, where neighbors said they saw Richard at earlier in the day. 

Later on Friday, around 4 p.m. at  Holmes Plaza on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Atlanta, Richard was shot and killed by authorities. It happened nearly 48 hours and 75 miles from where it all began. 

SKYFOX 5 flew over the strip mall before 5 p.m. to find the parking lot surrounding the Checks Cashed business blocked with crime scene tape, and a white van and tan SUV being surrounded by investigators.

“There was a residence nearby that was the focus of the investigation that we were going to serve the arrest warrants on, but the actual confrontation in conjunction with the van was behind us at this intersection,” said FBI spokesperson Special Agent Stephen Emmett. “Mr. Richard was wanted for shooting a deputy in Banks County, so he was armed and dangerous. He already fired upon law enforcement and our concerns going into this were pretty high."

Emmett said the FBI SWAT team and Atlanta Metropolitan Major Offender task force were assembled to confront the suspect.

“Gunfire came from the van and agents returned fire into the van,” said Emmett. “He did fire upon the agent and return fire killed him and struck another individual, a female, age 32."

Authorities said the male agent, whose name has not yet been released, was shot in the arm and was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital. Sheriff Speed said he's in good spirits and is expected to recover. 
 

The 32-year-old woman was also taken to the hospital for treatment. Investigators would not say what her relationship was to Richard, but said she was “not a target of the arrest warrant.”

"It is unfortunate things turned out that way. We're glad our agents and officers are going home, but Mr. Richard unfortunately chose to respond to law enforcement in this manner and ended up deceased,” said Emmett.

The GBI said Richard was known to the law enforcement community in metro Atlanta and had an extensive criminal history. Records obtained by FOX 5 News from the Fulton County Superior Court shows Richard faced charges of carrying a concealed weapon onto a bus, armed robbery, and aggravated assault with the intent to rob stemming from a 2004 arrest. Two years later, he was charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault with the intent to rape, aggravated sodomy and family violence battery. Georgia Department of Corrections’ records show Richard served 10 years at Smith State Prison for the crime and was released this past October.

"We would like to say thank you to everybody who helped this thing come to a resolution," Sheriff Speed said at the news conference. 

Heuatt remains at the Banks County Jail. 

MORE: Banks County deputy shooting suspect dead; agent, woman injured

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