06/12/2007

Ga. police fatally shoot knife-wielding suspect

By Lateef Mungin,
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

GWINNETT, Ga. — Drugs may have led to the bizarre incidents that resulted in a police officer fatally shooting a knife-wielding man.

A Gwinnett police officer shot and killed 23-year-old Javier Valdivia-Valdivia of Buford Friday morning, police said.

The officer, whose name has not been released, shot Valdivia after he stole a patrol car and kept ramming it into a pickup truck.

The shooting occurred after police responded to a report about 7:15 a.m. Friday that Valdivia was threatening at least two people with a knife at a gas station near South Lee Street and Buford Highway in downtown Buford.

Police said a white powdery substance was found in Valdivia's possession. Authorities are waiting for tests to confirm that the substance was an illegal drug and that Valdivia had consumed the substance, Gwinnett police Cpl. Darren Moloney said.

"We sent all the evidence to the GBI for testing," Moloney said. "We suspect that the substance he had on him was a narcotic, but the GBI will determine if he had it in his system."

Authorities also found a U.S. Permanent Resident card or "green card" on Valdivia's possession that had a different name, Moloney said.

Police didn't identify the name on the card but are working with agents from the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency to determine why Valdivia was carrying the card, Moloney said.

The officer's name who shot Valdivia was not released because there is an internal investigation into the shooting, police said. The officer has been with the Gwinnett police department for 11 years, Moloney said.

The officer was placed on paid administrative leave, which is department policy after an officer is involved in a fatal shooting. The department is conducting an internal investigation into the shooting and that investigation will be reviewed by the county district attorney, Moloney said.

Witnesses said they saw Valdivia acting strangely before he was confronted by police Friday.

A gas station clerk said Valdivia entered his store looking nervous and carrying a knife. The clerk said Valdivia then ran from the store and attempted to pump gas from several pumps even though he did not have a car.

Valdivia then ran into the street and tried to stab passing cars before police arrived, the clerk said.

Police said Valdivia attacked the first officer on the scene and was able to steal the officer's police cruiser. Valdivia drove about 200 yards before crashing into another vehicle.

There were no other injuries in the incident.

Copyright 2007 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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