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20K reward offered in murder of 2 Ga. officers

By Mike Morris
The Atlanta Journal Constitution

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County police identified the two officers shot and killed Wednesday morning as Ricky Bryant Jr., 26, and Eric Barker, 33. Both are married with four children.

Barker had been with the force for four years, Bryant for two. They were killed while responding to a suspicious person report at the Glenwood Gardens apartments at 4371 Glenwood Road in southwest DeKalb.
At an afternoon news conference, authorities offered $20,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the killings. Bishop Eddie Long, who attended the news conference, is putting up $10,000 of the reward, with the DeKalb Police Foundation and Atlanta Police Foundation each offering $5,000.

DeKalb police Chief Terrell Bolton described the shootings as a "must-solve crime that has to be solved swiftly."
He said the families of the slain officers were informed earlier in the day. "Hearing the scream of the widows was a sound you never want to hear," Bolton said.

Bolton would not address how the investigation is going, other than to say the search continues. He wouldn't reveal how many suspects police were looking for or provide any kind of description.

'Struck down by evil'

The slain officers were off duty at the time of the shootings, Bolton said. One of the officers died at the scene. The other died en route to a hospital.

Bryant and Barker showed "a lot of promise, but were struck down by evil," Bolton said.

They were working security detail at the apartment complex at the time of the shooting, Bolton said. They were in uniform at the time but driving personal vehicles, according to the chief.

Teofil Taut, who owns the apartment complex, said he hired the officers about two months ago after encountering problems with homeless people breaking into vacant units. About half of the 176 units are occupied, Taut said.

Search continues

Shortly before noon, dozens of DeKalb County police officers flooded neighborhoods along Snapfinger Road, about a quarter-mile from where the officers were shot.

Close to 100 DeKalb County officers and recruits are part of the search team. They have been joined by about 30 state troopers, including a Georgia State Patrol SWAT team, spokesman Larry Schnall at the news conference.

As the manhunt continued, nearby schools took extra precautions and motorists were advised to avoid the area:

Several DeKalb County schools remained under lockdown. Snapfinger Elementary, Columbia High and Towers High all have had school police officers on campus since 5 a.m. Officials said classes are still being held but extra security personnel are monitoring all exterior doors.

Atherton and Glenhaven elementary schools are also being monitored, since they are the next closest schools to the incident. System officials said the lockdown will remain in effect until county police officials give an all-clear.

Police advised commuters to avoid the area as the search continues. Several blocks of Glenwood just inside I-285 were shut down with dozens of police cars blocking access to Glenwood from side streets and parking lots. A police helicopter continued to circle overhead.

'Like my sons'

"What a horrible, horrible way to end your life," Bolton said of Bryant and Barker. "Apparently, they had no chance, for it appeared they were ambushed.

"... We're hurting right now ... it hurts at the heart," Bolton said. "But we'll get through this. We'll deal with it and we'll apprehend them."

Bolton said the officers were "like my sons."

"The best thing we can do to preserve the memory of these officers who lost those lives is to bring these people to justice," Bolton said.

Wednesday's shootings marked the first time two metro Atlanta officers were killed in the same incident since July 23, 1999, when two Cobb SWAT officers were killed by shotgun in a raid on an Austell-area house.

Copyright 2008 The Atlanta Journal Constitution

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