Suspended Georgia officer dead after standoff; 2 others killed

- A suspended police lieutenant in Georgia is dead after a SWAT standoff at his home, and an investigation found his estranged wife and her boyfriend slain in a nearby county.

The Florida Times-Union reports police said it appears 41-year-old Robert Cory Sasser's wife and her boyfriend were shot to death Thursday night in McIntosh County, Georgia, about 1½-hours north of Jacksonville, Florida, during a confrontation with Sasser that involved an exchange of gunfire.

The victims were identified as Katie Lovett Sasser, 34, and Johnny Edward Hall Jr., 39, The Brunswick News reported .

Police said Sasser then fled to nearby Glynn County where the standoff ensued and ended with his death. Authorities did not say if Sasser killed himself or was shot by officers. Neighbors said he was parked in the driveway and refused to get out of his truck. The back window had been shot out and police found Sasser's body inside.

According to the Brunswick newspaper, the McIntosh County Sheriff's Office said Sasser died of a gunshot wound to the chest. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating Sasser's death and would not comment Friday on whether Sasser's fatal wound was self-inflicted or fired from Hall's gun. Officers surrounding Sasser at the end fired only tear gas canisters, police said.

Sasser had been arrested last month on charges of simple battery and criminal trespassing after his wife said he threatened to kill her and a guest while trying to kick in her door. Sasser was placed on administrative leave without pay pending an investigation.

Authorities say the couple had been separated for three months.

Sasser had been free on bond after his May incident but was arrested again after another police standoff in the woods in Glynn County. He was charged with possession of a gun in that case.

Sasser also was investigated by the GBI following the June 2010 shooting death of 35-year-old Caroline McGehee Small after a chase in Glynn County. He and Officer Todd Simpson fired eight bullets into the unarmed woman's car after the chase, neither checking her condition as their patrol car cameras recorded them discussing their shooting skills, according to the bureau's 540-page case file. The woman was declared dead a week later.

Sasser and Simpson were cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a county grand jury in a split decision, while an internal police investigation also found no wrongdoing. At the time, the police chief said Sasser and Simpson acted reasonably and within department policy in the situation, which they perceived as life-threatening and endangering public safety.

A group calling itself Justice for Caroline that has pushed for prosecution of the officers involved in the 2010 shooting issued a statement Friday expressing sympathy for the families of all involved in Friday's incident. The statement also expressed frustration, saying members believe three deaths could have been prevented.

"Once again, children have lost their parents and families have lost their loved ones at Cory Sasser's hand," the statement said. "Too many lives have been lost due to public officials protecting and promoting one unfit to wear a badge."

Neighbor Harley Rich told the newspaper that he and his wife heard the commotion from two doors away.

Having lived in the usually quiet, well-kept neighborhood less than a year, Rich said he hadn't known Sasser long but said all their contacts had been pleasant. Back in the winter, Sasser promised to invite the Riches over for pool parties once the weather warmed. But then he and Katie Sasser had their breakup.

Rich also said he had seen Sasser out often with his young son.

"He took up a lot of time with the kid, played ball with him. I saw that a lot. Cute little boy," Rich said.

And that, Rich said, is the hardest part.

"I can't get that little boy off my mind. I hope there's good family people to take care of him," he said.

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