LUMPKIN, Ga.- A man on parole opened fire from the steps of this small town's courthouse early Thursday, wounding the police chief, a deputy and a paramedic who was rushing to their aid. The gunman was killed a few hours later after taking two hostages.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said the suspect, Marcus Dalton, may have initially opened fire as part of a desire to commit suicide by provoking a shootout with police.
"He made statements that he was going to force police to kill him," Keenan said.
The gunfire began about 2 a.m. when officers responded to a report of shots fired outside the Stewart County Courthouse in Lumpkin, a largely impoverished town of about 1,300 people near the Alabama line some 115 miles southwest of Atlanta.
Lumpkin Police Chief Jay Stripling and Stewart County Deputy Clinton Rivers were both shot in the face. Paramedic Vance Streeter was then shot while rushing to their aide.
The suspect ran.
Three hours later, police confronted Dalton a few blocks from the courthouse. He had taken two hostages _ a cousin and an acquaintance, authorities said.
Dalton fired at officers with a 9 mm pistol, grazing Henry Brown, the police chief from nearby Plains, police said. A deputy also was struck in his gun belt by a bullet, but was not injured.
Once the hostages were freed, officers returned fire and killed Dalton, said Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead.
Dalton was on parole at the time and had an extensive criminal record, including arrests for making terroristic threats, aggravated assault and distribution of marijuana.
His mother, Mary Dalton, said the episode stemmed from an argument the 26-year-old gunman had with his 30-year-old brother in the family's dilapidated mobile home about two blocks from the courthouse.
When their yelling escalated into a fight, Mary Dalton called police, prompting her younger son, who had spent five years in prison, to run away.
"He said, 'I will never go back to prison,"' she said.
Streeter was hospitalized in critical condition Thursday afternoon; an artery in his leg had been struck by a bullet. Stripling, whose jawbone was broken by a bullet, and Rivers, who was shot in the eye, were both hospitalized in satisfactory condition. Brown was treated and released.
Many residents in Lumpkin say the town has been struggling with crushing poverty and a lack of job opportunities. Rundown mobile homes and public housing projects line the city streets in the seat of Stewart County, one of the poorest counties in Georgia.
Associated Press writers Harry R. Weber and Daniel Yee in Atlanta contributed to this report.