Officials: Georgia suspect said he wanted police to kill him

AP News
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Posted: Jul 09, 2016 9:52 PM
Officials: Georgia suspect said he wanted police to kill him

VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) — A 22-year-old recovering drug addict told investigators he wanted police to kill him when he called 911 to lure an officer to his south Georgia apartment complex and then opened fire, authorities said Saturday.

Stephen Paul Beck told them he "wanted the police to shoot him as he wanted to die," the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a news release. The GBI said Beck told them he suffers from depression and does not hate police.

The Georgia shooting came hours after a sniper in Dallas killed five officers and wounded seven more, but the GBI has said there's no evidence to support a connection with the shootings in Dallas.

Authorities said Valdosta police officer Randall Hancock's protective vest took some of the bullets, but he was hit once just below it, in the abdomen early Friday.

Hancock and Beck remain hospitalized.

It's been a tense week between white police officers and black civilians. In this case, the suspect is Asian, and the officer is white.

Beck shot Hancock multiple times after making a 911 call about a car break-in outside the Three Oaks Apartments just after 8 a.m. Friday, Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress said at a news conference.

The police chief said Hancock was wearing a body camera, and its video footage had been turned over to the GBI.

Friends and neighbors of Beck said they were stunned. He had moved to Valdosta years ago from metro Atlanta to check into a live-in treatment center for people with chemical dependencies, but several people who knew Beck said he had turned his life around.

"He's one of the kindest, most gentle people — just genuinely so," said Taki Zambaras, who ran the treatment center.

When Beck arrived at the treatment center, he was "an angry, insubordinate, very confused kid who wanted to leave every day," Zambaras said, but he worked hard in the kitchen and at maintaining the long clay road leading to its doors.

"He left us in pretty good shape emotionally, physically and spiritually," Zambaras said. "He kept in touch with us after he left and even came back and volunteered his time with guys who were going through the program."

Residents at the apartment complex where the gunfire erupted Friday recalled seeing Beck smoke on his balcony or chatting with neighbors.

Darius Sheffield said they recently talked about the NBA finals and current movies. "It doesn't seem like him," he said. "The entire thing is kind of weird."

Steven Bowers, 21, said he thought he was hearing firecrackers until a bullet ripped through the siding of his unit, whizzed by his roommate's head, bounced off the wall and landed on a bed.

Bowers said he grabbed his own gun and looked outside when the shooting stopped. He saw the officer on the ground, but didn't see Beck until he was carried away on a stretcher with blood on his face.

Beck had been a roommate of Jason Sobczak's at a different Valdosta apartment. Sobczak said he last saw Beck at a meeting about three months ago and he seemed happier and healthier than ever.

J.C. Cunningham, who owns a Valdosta painting business, said he hired Beck for several months while he was in treatment.

"He was a good kid ... and really remorseful, I think, about some of the troubles he had gotten into in the past," Cunningham said. "One thing I do remember him saying a couple of times is he didn't want to go back home because he didn't want to be back around the same crowds."

It was not immediately known if Beck had an attorney.

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Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Associated Press writers Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Jeff Martin in Kennesaw, Georgia, contributed to this report.