Suspect in LaGrange standoff believed to be dead after house fire and explosion, police say

A heavily armed suspect in an 18-hour standoff and shootout with police at a LaGrange home is believed to be dead after the home caught fire and exploded Wednesday morning, officials say. 

Police said they found human remains inside a home where Brian Jessee, a suspect wanted for child cruelty and terrorist threats, was barricaded. The LaGrange Police Department said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation will conduct an autopsy on the remains for identification and to determine an official cause of death. 

According to LaGrange police, the fire started in the home's garage where the suspect stored hundreds of rounds of ammunition, setting it off after more than 14 hours into the standoff. 

Investigators do not believe Jessee started the fire. Police said officers deployed CS gas and smoke before the fire started to minimize the risk of danger to Jessee and officers. 

LaGrange Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Jeremy Butler says Jessee barricaded himself in the home in the area of Sunny Point and Moss Creek shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday. Police said this started over the weekend when Jessee made several threats of violence and possible overtures he wanted to take his own life.

On Monday, officers responded to his home around 12:50 p.m. for a request for a welfare check on two young children inside the home. 

Police had obtained a court order from a judge to initiate a commitment proceeding for a mental health evaluation on Tuesday afternoon.

"Before the order could be served, credible information was received that led LaGrange police to obtain arrest warrants for six counts of felony terrorist threats, one count cruelty to a child in the second degree, and one count of felony obstruction," Sgt. Butler said.

Based on information received by police that suggested Jessee had multiple firearms and explosives in the home, police said they began to evacuate homes in the nearby area around 3 p.m.

"While evacuating the neighborhood, Jessee was observed in the 100 block of Sunny Point Circle with an AR-15 rifle," Sgt. Butler said. "Jessee fired rounds from the rifle putting officers and residents in imminent danger."

In total, officials say Jessee fired over 300 rounds at the officers, going so far as disabling one of their armored vehicles during the standoff.

Police quickly surrounded the area and set up a command post. Additional resources from the sheriff’s offices in Troup, Coweta, and Fulton counties as well as police officers from Newnan and Peachtree City were brought in to assist. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Explosives Division was also called in to be on standby.

In a post to Facebook shortly after the standoff began, the department wrote: 

"Our officers are working diligently on an incident in this area and need your cooperation. If you live in or near this area, please remain inside."

"Over the next several hours, officers made multiple attempts to contact Jessee in order to safely resolve the incident that was met by additional gunfire," Sgt. Butler said.

Police said they did attempt to gain entry into the home using an armed vehicle, but were met with gunfire for more than an hour. Tear gas and smoke were deployed to try to minimize any causalities.

Residents who were stuck inside the subdivision are being asked by police to shelter in place. Meanwhile, dozens of residents were surrounding the entrance unable to get to their homes safely. As of 10 a.m., officials do not believe there is any more danger to residents of the area.

The cause of Jessee's death is undetermined at this time and the GBI will be investigating the shots fired by officers as part of the standoff. No injuries to any officers have been reported. 

Investigators have not released details surrounding the warrants that were taken out on Jessee.