Saturday, April 25, 2009

More Southern Shootings

On April 25, 2009, within minutes of each other, two multiple shootings, apparently issuing from domestic violence situations, left six people dead in Georgia and Florida, in one case including the shooter.


A University of Georgia professor who police suspect in the fatal shootings of his ex-wife and two men outside a theater near campus Saturday disappeared in his Jeep after dropping his children off with a neighbor, authorities said.

A nationwide manhunt was on for 57-year-old George Zinkhan, whom neighbors and others described as a quiet, introverted and respected marketing professor at the university in Athens, Georgia.

Members of a local theater group had gathered midday at the Athens Community Theater when Zinkhan left his children in his car and fired at them, said Athens-Clarke County Police Capt. Clarence Holeman. Killed were Zinkhan's ex-wife Marie Bruce, 47, Tom Tanner, 40, and Ben Teague, 63, Holeman said. Two others were injured by flying shrapnel.

SWAT members swarmed Zinkhan's neighborhood about seven miles from campus, and authorities searched his university office but came up empty. It didn't appear he had used his credit cards or ATM card, police said.

"We're doing everything we can to shut him down," Holeman said. "I believe he will turn up somewhere, somehow."

Zinkhan has been a professor in the Terry College of Business and had no disciplinary problems, university spokesman Pete Konenkamp said. He has taught at the school since the 1990s.

"His track record is impeccable as far as his teaching credentials," Konenkamp said. "He's a respected professor on campus."

The three victims were all involved with the Town & Gown Players Inc., a group that had planned an evening performance of "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" at the theater. The show was canceled after the shooting.

Tanner was set to be Dr. John Watson in the play, and Teague described himself on a Web site that bears his name as "a confirmed theater bum" for the local group. Bruce, a family law attorney her friends described as a well-respected, had for years volunteered as a set designer and director for the group.

Zinkhan had argued with at least one of the victims prior to the shooting, Holeman said. After walking away, he returned with the guns and opened fire. Police said they received a call about 12:25 p.m.

Zinkhan then drove his young son and daughter to a next-door neighbor's home in Bogart and dropped them off, only saying he needed them to watch them for about an hour because of an emergency.

Neighbor Robert Covington said when he asked Zinkhan's daughter, who is about 10 years old, about the emergency "all she would relate to me was there was something about a firecracker." The children were with police, and Covington said his neighborhood for awhile was "police central." Covington described Zinkhan and Bruce as still living together in the house.

Athens-Clarke County Coroner Sonny Wilson said the three victims were shot multiple times. Two different guns were involved, and neither was recovered at the scene, nor at Zinkhan's two-story colonial in the tidy middle-class suburb of Athens, Holeman said.

Authorities issued a nationwide alert for Zinkhan and his 2005 red Jeep Liberty. Zinkhan also has a house in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and authorities were keeping a lookout at airports. Also, police in Austin, Texas, have been alerted since Zinkhan has family there.

"Anyone who shoots three people is dangerous, that's the best way I can put it," Holeman said.

Shortly after the shooting, the university issued a campus-wide alert as a precaution.

"Our first thoughts are for safety of the university community and for prompt apprehension of the person responsible," university President Michael F. Adams said in a statement.

Zinkhan was quiet and introverted, Covington said, but he never suspected something like the shootings.

"It's a pretty huge shock," Covington said.

Dana Adams, who lives across the street, said police looking for Zinkhan had hidden in her backyard. She didn't know the professor that well, but described him as "kind of a strange character," who would sometimes walk off in the middle of a conversation. "But I would never suspect this."

Bruce, Zinkhan's ex-wife, loved the theater and recently directed a production of "Trip to Bountiful," said Wesley Cook who knew Bruce through the theater company, where Cook's girlfriend performs.

"She was very lively and charming and was an integral part of that theater community," Clark said.

Bruce graduated from the University of Georgia's law school and specialized in family law. She moved to Athens in 1980 from Augusta, where she performed in school and church shows, according to a 2002 profile of her in the Athens Banner-Herald. She taught high school and college before law school.

Athens attorney Ed Tolley said he and Bruce worked on cases together and knew her well.

"She was a wonderful person," Tolley said, "Red-headed, very attractive, very professional, and a wonderful mother."

He said when he heard one of the victims was a lawyer whose husband was a professor, he feared it was Bruce.

"My heart breaks for the children," he said.

Teague wrote on his site: "For over 17 years I've spent most of my weekends (and a lot of evenings) working with a community theater company here in Athens."

Teague, who was married to a longtime University of Georgia professor, also said he had worked providing German to English translation services to business, industry, government and the law since 1972. He said he grew up in East Tennessee and lived in Texas for several years and moved to Athens in 1977.

Before joining the faculty at the University of Georgia, Zinkhan held academic positions at the universities of Houston and Pittsburgh. He has a doctorate from the University of Michigan and graduated from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 1974.

Tom Reichert, a professor at the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, knew Zinkhan from around the campus.

"This is a total shock," Reichert said. "I wouldn't say he was particularly vivacious or particularly quiet. He was right down the middle."


About 35 minutes later,,,

A man accused of beating his wife killed two north Florida sheriff's deputies who caught up with him at a shooting range, then fled across the county line, where he died in an exchange of gunfire with deputies, authorities said.

It happened around 1 p.m. Saturday when the two Okaloosa County deputies went to Shoal River Sporting Clays and Shooting Center in response to a domestic violence call, sheriff's officials said.

Deputies Burt Lopez and Deputy Warren "Skip" York were pronounced dead after being airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, about 45 miles away, the sheriff's office said. Officials identified their killer as Joshua Cartwright, 28, of Fort Walton Beach.

Authorities said Cartwright, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier, shot both deputies and took off toward neighboring Walton County, where Walton County deputies killed him after an exchange of gunfire at a roadblock.

"It must have been like 30 or 40 shots," witness Mark Illich told The Northwest Florida Daily News.

Illich said he saw one officer putting down spikes at the intersection and knew "something's about to happen."

Then, "(Cartwright's) truck, he started coming. And we saw him, and he seemed calm as a cucumber," Illich said.

Cartwright veered around the spike strip, and an officer opened fire at the back of his truck, Illich said.

The incident began shortly after 10 a.m. when the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center notified the sheriff's office that Cartwright's wife said she had been beaten by her husband, according to a timeline released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the sheriff's office.

The two deputies found Cartwright at the shooting range and began trying to arrest him shortly before 1 p.m., but they reported that he was refusing to cooperate.

At 12:51 p.m. dispatchers received a call that an officer had been hit and began their search for Cartwright, who had left the shooting range in his truck.

Deputies shot and killed Cartwright around 1:10 p.m.

Cartwright had been arrested in November on a charge of domestic battery against his wife, Elizabeth Marie Cartwright, 21. That charge was still pending.

According the sheriff's office incident report, the couple had argued in a store parking lot. Cartwright told deputies that "things got out of hand when he heard enough of her shouting at him," and that he pushed her in the face with his open hand.

The Daily News reported that Cartwright had worked as a bouncer at a Fort Walton Beach bar. The sheriff's office said Cartwright also served in the U.S. Army Reserves and the 2008 arrest report listed the Army Reserves as his employer.

Lopez and York were wearing bulletproof vests, said Michele Nicholson, spokeswoman for the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.

"We're experiencing a range of emotions, from heartache and disbelief to numbness, that these men were taken from our agency, their family and friends, and their communities," Nicholson said. "Our focus right now is to take care of their loved ones, and each other, and continue to serve the public, as we work through this latest devastating event."

The slain deputies, both 45, were retired from the U.S. Air Force, Nicholson said. Lopez had five children and York had a 10-year-old son, according to the Daily News.

It was the latest in a series of traumatic episodes for the department.

Another Okaloosa County sheriff's deputy was shot and killed in July following a standoff with a man who had barricaded himself inside a home.

Gov. Charlie Crist suspended Okaloosa County Sheriff Charles Morris in February 2009, after he was arrested by FBI agents while on a gambling trip to Las Vegas.

Morris and his former office manager, Teresa Adams, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday, April 23, on theft, money laundering and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors allege Morris and Adams created fictitious bonuses for sheriff's department employees then pocketed some of the money.

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