You likely saw on the news or on social media that Gwinnett County Police Officer Antwan Toney was killed in the line of duty on October 20. He was shot while investigating a suspicious vehicle near Shiloh Middle School. Since I started with the DeKalb County Police Department in 2001, there have been six officers killed here in the line of duty. I have known most of these officers in some way or another. In this month’s newsletter, I’m going to use this solemn occasion to remember these men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their community.
I hadn’t even been with the department a year when Officer Ann Guinta was killed in a traffic accident on July 20, 2001. I worked the evening shift at Center Precinct and she worked during the day watch. The day before she died, she cut through the roll call room; she on her way home, I waiting for my shift to start. She, another officer and I made small talk for about a minute and she left. The next day she was gone. She left behind a six-year-old son.
When Officer Dennis Stepnowski was killed in a shootout at a Stone Mountain apartment complex on June 29, 2006, I was still working evening watch at Center Precinct. I remember hearing the radio traffic as officers at the scene tried to race him to the hospital. Officer Stepnowski was on the SWAT team and generally was someone that newer officers aspired to be like. You seriously consider your mortality when you see someone as fit and experienced as Step get killed.
I was working in the Major Felony Unit when Officers Eric Barker and Ricky Bryant were shot to death on January 16, 2008. They were killed investigating a suspicious vehicle at an apartment complex on Glenwood Road. We worked 18 to 20 hour days to identify the suspect and then to get him into custody. Officers Barker and Bryant each left behind a wife and four children.
Officer Ivorie Klusmann had been with the department for less than a year when he was killed in a car wreck on August 10, 2013. He was responding to assist another officer to investigate a suspect driving a stolen car. He left behind two children.
The most recent officer to lose his life in the line of duty was Officer Kevin Toatley on September 19, 2015. He was hit head-on by a wrong-way driver and his vehicle burst into flames. Officer Toatley was a seven-year veteran of the department when he died.
There have been 24 other officers killed in the line of duty before my time at the DeKalb P.D. going back to 1919. The most common causes are car wrecks and gunfire. Part of being a police officer is accepting that every day you go to work may be your last. There are very few other professions which have the same expectations.
On September 21, the business owner at 200 Arbor Circle confronted a suspect who was stealing items from the business and from vehicles parked nearby. Once police were called, an officer responding to the scene bravely chased the suspect onto the roof of an adjacent business. The officer was able to take the suspect into custody at that point. The suspect was charged with burglary and entering auto.
On October 10, police were called to 4893 Lewis Road in reference to a person shot. While responding, officers stopped a vehicle matching the suspect’s description. One of the occupants of the vehicle stopped was identified as the shooter and he was arrested for aggravated assault. The investigation into the incident revealed that the shooting stemmed from a dispute over rap lyrics.
On October 22, police were called to a burglary at 5430 E. Ponce de Leon Avenue. As officers responded, they observed the suspect across the street from the location. They gave a short chase and were able to apprehend the suspect and make an arrest for burglary.