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Off-duty Ga. officer stabbed in grocery store confrontation

The Associated Press

ATHENS-CLARKE COUNTY, Ga. —  An Athens-Clarke County police officer remained in critical condition after being attacked and stabbed at a grocery store.

Sgt. Courtney Gale was off-duty and working security at the Kroger store around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday when she confronted a suspicious man, police said.

Gale was stabbed repeatedly with a kitchen knife during the confrontation.

She lost a large amount of blood in the attack and surgeons operated Tuesday night and three more times Wednesday, according to police.

Steven Anthony Eberhart, 44, was arrested later as he ran through a parking lot. He has been charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault and felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer. He is being held without bond at the Clarke County Jail.

The incident began when an employee told Gale about a man who was acting strangely, pushing a shopping cart filled with suitcases and opening packages of meat, police said.

Gale was walking toward the man when he lunged, knocked her down, pinned her to the ground and started stabbing her, witnesses said.

"It looked like he was trying to keep her from going for her gun or mace," said one witness, Jeffrey Stovall, a University of Georgia student.

Stovall and his roommate, Andrew Stipe, were in a checkout line about 15 feet away and thought they were witnessing a killing.

"She turned real pale and there was so much blood, it looked like she was about to die," Stipe said. "I had to turn away."

Other customers kicked the man to make him stop, but the suspect did not run from the store until the manager intervened.

An officer tackled the knife-wielding man as he ran through a parking lot about a half mile from the scene of the attack, police said.

Gale remained in critical condition Wednesday evening at St. Mary's Hospital.

Dozens of people — from detectives and uniformed officers to Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents and District Attorney Ken Mauldin — visited the hospital Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We just want to be here for her and give her whatever she needs," police detective Kim Johnson said. "It's a sad, sad day, but Courtney's a real fighter and we know she's going to pull through."

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