SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Two officers of the Chatham County Police Department (CCPD) have been placed on administrative leave after a shooting on duty Thursday night.
This is the department’s first officer-involved shooting since CCPD became a separate entity from Savannah police in Feb. 2018.
WSAV News 3 talked to a neighbor who saw officers fire their weapons.
“I can’t see the porch or the front door from here,” said Stephanie Hadwin, who lives a few houses away from the shooting scene.
Hadwin says what she could see from her driveway will probably haunt her for life.
Her neighbor, 71-year-old Vincent Gadson, lives a few houses down from her. She said they were friendly, and Gadson seemed to be in good spirits lately.
CCPD says the officers were called to Tara Court off of Ferguson Avenue around 7:30 p.m. for a report of a man pointing a gun at another person.
The officers encountered Gadson when they arrived, according to the department, and fired their weapons, injuring him.
“I couldn’t see Vincent, all I saw were the police close to the front porch with their gun drawn and saw them shoot, and it’s a horrible thing to see somebody shoot somebody,” said Hadwin.
“I just turned around and walked away and said, ‘I can’t handle this,'” said Hadwin tearfully.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) says when the CCPD officers arrived at Tara Court, they made contact with the 911 caller who reported Gadson pointed a gun at him.
Another neighbor arrived on the scene and told police Gadson was outside of his home, pointing a gun at him.
The officers spoke with Gadson for 15 to 20 minutes trying to de-escalate the situation, the agency said.
Gadson refused to comply with commands to drop the weapon and move away from it, according to the GBI. Officials say he put the gun down on a chair on his porch at one point but picked it up again.
The two officers subsequently fired their guns.
Gadson was taken to Memorial Hospital with “potentially life-threatening injuries,” CCPD said. He is listed in stable condition, according to the GBI.
The officers involved have been identified as a 30-year-old corporal and a 41-year-old officer.
Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley said the corporal has been with CCPD since April 2019. He joined as an officer and was recently promoted in Jan. 2021 to corporal.
The other officer joined the department in July 2019 as a recruit, Hadley said. He became a certified officer three months after joining.
Placing the officers on leave is part of CCPD policy. Hadley said both of their body cameras were activated during the incident.
“While this is still under investigation, based on what I know at this point, I believe these officers did a tremendous job in a very stressful and difficult set of circumstances,” Hadley said in a press conference Friday.
He did not take questions from reporters, pointing to the GBI’s ongoing investigation.
According to a report from the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, Gadson was arrested in 2000 for a probation violation. In the years prior, he had been charged for driving under the influence and an open container violation.
Hadwin says Gadson recently lost his wife but is always friendly. She says leading up to the shooting, he seemed mentally unstable. She says she saw him walking down the street less than an hour before, and he seemed disoriented.
Hadwin says she called out to him, but he didn’t even look up.
“He didn’t even know anyone was there around him, and I thought, ‘Gee, that’s kind of strange,'” said Hadwin.
She says she was sad the situation ended the way it did.
“I thought it could have been handled in a different way, but of course, I couldn’t see Vincent, so I don’t know what the situation was,” said Hadwin. “But he, he didn’t deserve what he got.”
Once the GBI’s investigation is complete, the agency will turn it over to the Eastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for review.
This is the 29th shooting involving an officer the GBI has been requested to investigate this year.