DODGE COUNTY, Ga. - The man accused of killing a south Georgia police officer was arrested in Florida early Monday morning.
The Telfair County Sheriff’s Office tells Channel 2 Action News that Royheem Delshawn Deeds, 24, was found in the trunk of his sister’s car near U.S. 1 and Teston Lane in Nassau County, south of Hilliard, Florida around 1:30 a.m. during a traffic stop.
Officer Tim Smith, 30, was investigating a suspicious-person call about 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the intersection of Smith and Main streets in Eastman when he was killed, Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman Scott Dutton said in a news release.
Eastman is in Dodge County, which is about 55 miles south of Macon.
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The call was for a man with a gun walking on the railroad tracks. Smith was shot when he got out of his patrol car. Authorities say he was not wearing his Kevlar vest at the time.
"A lot of times, when, during the summer, it's so hot and sometimes, they don't wear it, but he does have a bulletproof vest,” police Chief Becky Sheffield said.
Though Smith returned fire, Deeds got away.
Smith, who joined the Eastman Police Department in February 2011, died from his wounds at a nearby hospital.
Officer Tim Smith
Monday would have been Smith’s 31st birthday. He is survived by his three children, Dutton said.
Smith, who was with the department for five years, comes from a family of officers. His father and grandfather were both in law enforcement.
The Nassau County sheriff says this incident highlights how dangerous it is to be a police officer.
"(An) Eastman, Georgia, officer was doing his job and he was killed as a result of that. (It's) very sad when that happens, but it's a good day when we can find that individual who did it and arrest them," Sheriff Bill Leeper said.
Suspect Royheem Deeds
The 24-year-old suspect is from Telfair County.
“I was not familiar with him at all. He was actually from Telfair County, maybe Lumber City. I've never had any dealings with him at all,” Sheffield said.
Deeds, his sister and another person inside the car are all facing charges. All three waived extradition at a court appearance in Florida Monday morning so they will soon be brought back to Eastman to face a judge.
Community in mourning
The flags are at half-staff outside the Eastman Police Department. Inside, Sheffield told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot that it’s been hard on all of them.
“You never think it would happen in a town like this, but you never know,” she said. “It’s sort of a shock, but you know, like I said, every day any of us comes to work, we never know if we’re going to go home at the end of the day.”
The community has rallied around the 13-person department since Smith’s death Saturday.
“Everybody’s saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ praying for us, real apologetic, wondering what they can do to help,” Officer Terry Davis said. Davis joined the department just a few months after Smith.
Monday, hundreds of people lined the streets as Smith’s body was driven to the funeral home. More than a dozen police and deputy sheriff cars escorted the white hearse.
“Overwhelming. Dodge County and Eastman, awesome folks, but I mean, they have really, it's just unreal how much support we've had,” Sheffield said.
Sheffield says everyone was relieved when they made the arrest.
“After he finally has been apprehended, it's kind of like, we can move on to the next step now maybe,” she said. “I've been working with the police department for 39 years, and I’ve never had to deal with this, and I hope I never have to deal with this again.”
Smith is the first Eastman police officer killed in the line of duty.
Officer Smith’s funeral is set for Thursday afternoon.
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