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Home  >  Topics  >  Investigations

April 04, 2001
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Emergency Report: Investigator Sherry Lyons-Williams
[Atlanta, GA]

Feature Report:

***A scholarship fund has been set up in honor of the slain officer at the University of Georgia, where she earned a political science degree.

Contributions can be sent to: Sherry Lyons-Williams Scholarship Fund, UGA Foundation, Athens, GA 30602-5582, Attention: Jeff Delk.

(ATLANTA) -- A mid-afternoon shootout yesterday at a southeast Atlanta home Wednesday left two people dead, including a veteran narcotics investigator - the first female Atlanta police officer killed on the job. The officers were searching the downstairs of 1855 Lakewood Terrace for drugs. As they pressed forward, a man opened a door and fired at the officers, police said.

Investigator Sherry Lyons-Williams, 39, died after she was shot through the heart. Her partner, Thaddeus "T.J." Chambers, 35, was shot twice but his injuries were not life-threatening. The gunman, Michael Thompson, 30, was also killed in the shootout.

Lyons-Williams was wearing a bulletproof vest, but it was not immediately known if the bullet pierced the vest or struck an uncovered area, such as under the arm. She died quickly, police said. Chambers was hit in the knee and face and is recovering at Grady Memorial Hospital.

The shooting occurred during the typical kind of "buy-bust" that Chambers and Lyons-Williams did more than a dozen times each month. Earlier Wednesday, other narcotics officers had made an undercover drug buy at the Lakewood Terrace house - a dilapidated gray bungalow with broken screens and a Coke machine on the front porch. Police got a search warrant and a team of investigators went back to the house that afternoon. They knocked and then quickly pushed through the door, said Deputy Police Chief C.B. Jackson.

During the raid, one part of the team went upstairs; Lyons-Williams and Chambers went downstairs. As they were coming down a hallway, a man threw open a bedroom door and started shooting, police said.

Dr. Jeffrey Salomone, an Emory University trauma surgeon, examined both police officers who were shot. He said the bullet passed through the 13-year veteran's heart. She was not wearing a vest when she arrived at the hospital, the doctor said. Salomone said one bullet went through Chambers' right cheek, but the facial wound did not require surgery. Surgeons did operate on his injured left knee and thigh area.

Several dozen police officers and other city officials gathered at Grady Memorial Hospital shortly after word of the shooting spread. They waited for news about their colleagues and talked quietly among themselves in the parking lot and inside the hospital. Lyons-Williams' husband arrived and was escorted inside.

Thompson was known around the neighborhood as quiet and somewhat unassuming. Dubbed "New York," because he moved to Atlanta from there, neighbors said he often sat on his porch and played rap music on his boom box. Neighbors said he had twin 3-year-old daughters, who would sometimes visit.

Lyons-Williams grew up around Zebulon, in Pike County, 45 miles south of downtown Atlanta. She was a personable high-school student who played power forward for the Pike County Lady Pirates basketball team, said Marvin Hollis, a friend from those days.

A police chaplain performed her marriage ceremony. She competed in police athletic events, winning the women's bench press and 100-meter dash in the Southeastern Police and Fire Championships in 1995. And she was a regular for lunch at Manuel's Tavern, a hangout for street cops and top brass.

Lyons-Williams' partner was Thaddeus "T.J." Chambers, a 15-year veteran. For Chambers, 35, being a cop was in his blood. His dad, Bruce Chambers, is a retired Atlanta cop.

On duty, Lyons-Williams and Chambers were always together - At the office or on the street or at lunch.

Even off duty they were good friends. Lyons-Williams sometimes went fishing with Chambers and his dad.

Together, Lyons-Williams and T.J. Chambers averaged 14 search warrants a month - which is more than most, Jackson said. They often made twice the number of narcotics arrests as any other partnership in the drug squad, Jackson said.

The investigation into Wednesday's shooting will continue, even though Harvard said she didn't think any other people were involved.

"I think it underscores the difficulty of this very serious occupation of protecting and serving the rest of us," said Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, who met with the officers' families and talked to reporters outside Grady Hospital. "This is a very tight-knit police department and they're suffering."

Sherry Lyons-Williams was a PoliceOne.com member. Many of you may know Sherry as "Sher" in the PoliceOne chat room. Please join us at here at PoliceOne as well as with everyone in the PoliceOne community in keeping her in our thoughts and prayers. Please also join us in sending our condolences to her family in this difficult time.

Atlanta Police Department is currently working towards setting up a memorial fund for Officer Lyons-Williams. We will present this information to you as soon as we obtain it.

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