Two lawmen give account in recent fatal police shooting
By Matt Elofson
Published: May 1, 2009
Two area law enforcement officers say they believe a Henry County man was specifically targeting the police when he opened fire in the Granberry Crossing community last Friday.
Gunfire from Fred Davis left Headland Police Officer Dexter Hammond, 38, fatally wounded and Henry County Sheriff’s Deputy Ted Yost critically injured. Yost, 38, has recently been upgraded to fair condition at Southeast Alabama Medical Center.
After Davis shot Hammond and Yost, Abbeville Police Lt. Noel Vanlandingham and Quitman County, Ga. chief Sheriff’s Deputy Eddie Ingram both fired at Davis, killing him.
Vanlandingham said Davis, 53, reportedly fired a gun into the air around civilians before opening fire on police. Dozens of Wiregrass law enforcement officers responded to Davis’ Henry County Road 55 home, located just south of the old Granberry store.
“He knew we were coming and when we did come he started shooting,” Vanlandingham said. “They see us as government officials trying to suppress their freedom.”
Ingram said less than two minutes after he and Vanlandingham arrived, the shooting was over. But for Vanlandingham, time nearly came to a stop.
“It felt like an eternity,” Vanlandingham said. “At that point and time, it seemed like it was taking forever.”
On that Friday afternoon, Vanlandingham fired his weapon for the first time in the line of duty in his 15 years in law enforcement.
“I was as scared as I’ve ever been in my life. I think I found out what I was made of ... ,” Vanlandingham said. “You can not hesitate at all.”
Ingram stood behind a tree along a fence as he pulled the trigger on his .308-caliber scoped sniper rifle, striking Davis from an estimated 180 yards.
“I yelled for him several times to drop the weapon,” Ingram said. “When I seen him raise the weapon and put his eye to the scope that’s when I started firing. All I could see was his waist up. I fired once, he’s down and that’s all that matters.”
Vanlandingham was standing behind a large trash container when he pulled the trigger on his .223-caliber assault rifle, striking Davis from an estimated 40 yard distance.
Ingram said an investigation into the shooting revealed Davis attempted to continue firing after two officers had already been wounded, but his weapon jammed.
“It was like being in a war Friday because somebody was trying to kill you,” said Ingram, who has served in the Middle East. “It hurts that Dexter’s dead and Ted got shot, every officer there was a brother. You don’t appreciate living until you’ve got close to dying.”
Both officers stressed the importance of up-to-date training and equipment for law enforcement officers, especially for small departments. Vanlandingham said his assault rifle was purchased through a grant. Ingram personally owned his sniper rifle, but nearly didn’t have it. He had planned to sell it earlier that day, but the sale fell through. Ingram and Vanlandingham said they both wore bullet proof vests during the shooting.
“Ted (Yost) didn’t even have a bullet proof vest,” Ingram said.
Authorities previously released information that Davis likely had been off his medication for a mental health condition.
But Vanlandingham said he came in contact with something entirely different that afternoon.
“What he did was precise, he shot Ted (Yost) in the face, shot Dexter (Hammond) in the head and was aiming at another,” Vanlandingham said. “Off his medication, it don’t matter, he was pure evil.”
Ingram said the two men only followed their training and did what had to be done.
“Nobody harbors ill will against that man’s family,” Ingram said. “Noel and I don’t feel good about what happened. We’re not proud. We just did what had to be done.”