Five officers injured in shootout

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2003

In an almost three hour adrenaline-charged Sunday evening six law enforcement officers were shot and five of those were wounded by an assault-rifle-wielding former U.S. Army Bomb Squad member on U.S. Highway 31, near Greenville.

The deputies and police officers were responding behind volunteer firefighters from the Bolling Sandcutt and Wald (B S& W) Fire Department, who, when they pulled up in front of the residence at 7921 Mobile Road, reported being fired upon by Ronald Shields, 55, the resident of the home.

None of the firefighters were struck, but quickly left the scene. They radioed to the Butler County Emergency Communications District requesting immediate backup by law enforcement.

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It has been reported that Shields set a mobile home behind his house on fire, and the firefighters were dispatched to answer the fire call.

When Butler County Sheriff's Department Deputies Russell Davis, Robbie Dean and Tim Williamson arrived at the location, they became the target of continued rapid fire from an automatic weapon.

&uot;When I got hit, it seemed as though he pumped out 10 rounds – all at once,&uot; Davis reportedly told officers as he was loaded into a Greenville Fire-Rescue unit.

Because of the number of rounds being fired at the officers and possible ricochets, it was unclear at first to the officers if there were more than one shooter.

Davis, Dean and Williamson were hit by bullets n Davis took a round in his face, Dean in his left hip, and Williamson in his left leg.

Calling for &uot;any and all&uot; available assistance from law enforcement, the deputies sought cover while returning fire, as Shields reportedly barricaded himself behind a pickup truck parked across his driveway in front of his home.

Greenville Police Department officers responding to the call for &uot;Double Zero&uot; – an officer is being fired upon – were soon on the scene, and met with a similar fate.

Officer Dwight Hudson and his partner, Ronnie Terry, arrived in one vehicle and were joined at the scene by Officer Albert Dyas, who responded in a second GPD unit.

Dyas was struck in the arm, and Terry, a rookie who has not yet completed police academy training, was separated from Hudson, his training officer.

Hudson took a round through his foot near the ankle, and according to doctors at L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital, was &uot;extremely lucky,&uot; because the bullet went in and out without damaging any bone, cartilage or ligament.

&uot;It could have easily destroyed his ankle and foot,&uot; said Dr. Edgar Victoria, a surgeon called in by the emergency department.

Terry was struck in the back with a bullet, but luckily his body armor deflected the round.

Shields also riddled three law enforcement vehicles driven by Davis, Hudson and Dyas with bullets.

Officers later discovered Shields had several high-powered assault rifles in his home.

While off-duty officers called to the scene from both agencies hurried to get the injured men away from the scene and attempted to secure it, they learned of a possible bomb in the house.

&uot;Shields indicated that there was a bomb on the table in the kitchen,&uot; said Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram. &uot;Officers near the scene believed there were propane tanks in the house, booby-trapped to prevent them from gaining entry and taking Shields into custody.&uot;

&uot;Shields said he suffered from depression and had not taken his antidepressant medication for quite some time,&uot; Sheriff Harris said after he was taken into custody.

Officers were able to get Terry, who was barricaded in a ditch, to safety.

It was approximately 2.5 hours after the initial call for backup went out before more than 50 law enforcement officials heard the welcomed call on a radio, &uot;We have the suspect in custody.&uot;

When he heard that, Ingram said, &uot;Thank God.&uot;

&uot;This was a very tense situation,&uot; said Ingram, who buried one Greenville officer, Gary Wayne Heath, several years ago when Heath was slain after interrupting a robbery at an Interstate service station. &uot;I am just happy that everyone will get to go home tonight.&uot;

&uot;Thank you, Jesus,&uot; was what Butler County Sheriff Diane Harris said, once the shooting stopped.

&uot;We were very fortunate that we weren't bring six dead bodies out of there

Sunday night,&uot; she said. &uot;That guy was loaded n he had every kind of weapon imaginable.&uot;

Harris also confirmed that Shields had several bombs and booby-trapped propane tanks strewn about the property.

&uot;The tanks were wrapped with chains and had bags of nails taped to them,&uot; the sheriff said. &uot;All he had to do was shoot them, and they would have sent shrapnel flying everywhere. This guy was serious.&uot;

Officers from several agencies responded to assist the Sheriff's Department and Greenville Police Department from as far away as Crenshaw County (the Second Judicial Drug Task Force). Agents from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI), who responded with mobile crime-scene and bomb squad units, also were called to the scene to handle the explosives.

&uot;It's standard procedure to call in the ABI investigate whenever there is a scene to be processed where officers have been involved in gunfight,&uot; said Ingram.

Shields was taken to the Lowndes County Detention Facility, where he was placed under maximum security on a suicide watch.

He appeared in Butler County District Court at 10 a.m. on Monday, before District Judge MacDonald Russell, and was officially charged with six counts of attempted murder.

&uot;We requested that his bond be set at $4 million, considering the amount of firepower he had and the fact that he wounded five officers,&uot; Harris said. &uot;After being charged, Shields was taken back to Lowndes County Detention Facility where he is being detained because I would have a real concern for his safety if we kept him here at the county jail.&uot;

District Judge MacDonald Russell set bond at $250,000 for Shields Monday during his arraignment at the Butler County Courthouse.

Shields' wife, who declined to be identified, issued a statement to the Advocate concerning Sunday night's events.

&uot;The family of Ronald Shields would like to express their sincere appreciation to Chief Ingram, the GPD, Sheriff Harris and the Butler County Sheriff's Department and the other participating law enforcement officers for their assistance Sunday,&uot; a spokeperson said. &uot;We would like to express our sorrow for the injured law enforcement officers and want to let them know that they and they families are in our thoughts and prayers. We wish for them a speedy recovery. We also would like to thank our family and friends for their love, support and prayer during this difficult time.&uot;