NC trooper with Atlanta ties shot four times

by: Shae Rozzi Updated:

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ATLANTA - A North Carolina state trooper who grew up in the Atlanta area was shot in the line of duty.

Less than an hour after Trooper Michael Potts was shot Monday, his longtime friend from Georgia got a text message from the officer's sergeant.

"I just want to let you know Mike was shot four times on a traffic stop around 6 p.m.," Chad Payne told Channel 2's Shae Rozzi as he read the text message from his phone. "He's OK, and we'll keep you updated."

Payne said he got more information when he spoke with the sergeant and the trooper's wife over the phone while they're at Duke University Hospital where Potts is being treated.

"The only information I have is that he was walking up to the car and he hand-printed the car, which means he took his hand, put it on the car. He didn't even get a word out and the guy just started shooting," Payne said. 

Potts was shot in both hands, the face and shoulder.

"They wired his mouth shut, but he's still in great spirits. The swelling on his face has gone down. It's just a long road to recovery that he's going to have," Payne said. 

Payne has known Potts since they were teenagers. Both of their fathers were police officers for the DeKalb and Lithonia police departments. The shooting hits home for Payne.

"Back in 1980, my dad was shot. He was shot in the face, same thing. It went through his chin, and he survived," he said.

Payne and Potts attended Lithonia High School, where Potts was a standout baseball player. After graduating in 1989, he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians but wanted to stay in Georgia. He was then picked up by the Atlanta Braves.

"He chose to go with the Braves  --  him and Chipper Jones were both drafted in the same year," Payne recalled.

Potts played for their minor league team and ultimately injured his shoulder playing for the Durham Bulls.

He then followed in his father's footsteps and began a career in law enforcement working for the Durham Sheriff's Office before joining the North Carolina Highway Patrol in 2001.

Chad Payne loves baseball too. He coaches his son's team in Georgia.

He also followed in his father's footsteps. Payne has worked for the Powder Springs Police Department for more than a decade and three years ago, became the personal bodyguard to country music singer Zac Brown, of the Zac Brown Band.

Payne last saw Potts at a concert in Greensboro, N.C., last month and plans to send him a care package filled with Lithonia High School memorabilia and items from the Zac Brown Band 2013 tour.

Payne said he wants Potts to know one thing: "There are people right here in Lithonia, Ga., that still think the world of him because of who he was when he was here."