10/25/2006

Ga. deputies kill target of manhunt

Yolanda Rodriguez; Staff
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Copyright 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Michael Whitted and his wife were asleep early Monday when they heard shots.

A man's life ended in an old barn on Whitted's 5-acre property in east Cobb.

Christopher Lee Conte of South Carolina was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy in the barn, ending a manhunt that started with a traffic stop Saturday.

"Everyone in the neighborhood was aware that there was a possible fugitive on the loose," Whitted said Monday. "I had assumed he had moved out of the area."

A Cobb police officer stopped Conte about 4 a.m. Saturday on Vinson Drive, near Pete Shaw Road. He was in a Toyota pickup with an expired tag and a broken taillight, police said.

Cpl. Dana Pierce, a Cobb police spokesman, said a woman was in the Toyota with Conte. During the traffic stop, Conte drove off and later dropped off his passenger.

He drove into a nearby subdivision and drove out as another officer approached in a car, Pierce said. As the officer neared the Toyota, Conte "fired several shots through the windshield."

Conte ran. Police impounded the car. They also found and questioned the woman who was with Conte. She does not face charges, Pierce said.

On Saturday, police had searched for Conte near Lassiter High School and around Pete Shaw Road and Vinson Drive. They also filed warrants charging him with aggravated assault against a police officer, possession of a firearm, driving with an expired tag and a broken taillight.

Sheriff Neil Warren said deputies found Conte about 3 a.m. near Pete Shaw Road, about 1 1/2 miles from where the initial traffic stop occurred.

He said four deputies entered the barn, while one remained outside. The deputies ordered Conte to put his hands up.

"He refused," Warren said.

Instead, the sheriff said, Conte turned and pointed a firearm at the deputies.

"One of my deputies fired," Warren said.

Conte, 24, of Huntsville, S.C., died immediately.

The deputy, whose name was not released, was placed on paid administrative pending an investigation by the sheriff's internal affairs unit, as is routine.

Whitted said he never felt as if he were in danger.

"I found out later the house was surrounded by police. This doesn't change my mind about where I live. This a quiet, peaceful place. Unfortunately for this young man --- I feel bad for him --- he made some choices that led him to a bad situation." 

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