Shootout in Greenville

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 31, 2003

In an adrenaline-charged 2.5 hours Sunday evening six law enforcement officers were shot and wounded by an assault rifle-wielding former U.S. Army Bomb Squad member on U.S. Highway 31, near Greenville.

The deputies and police officers were responding behind volunteer firefighters from the Bolling Sandcutt and Wald (B S& W) Fire Department, who when they pulled up in front of the residence at 7921 Mobile Road, reported being fired upon by Ronald Shields, 55, the resident of the home. None of the firefighters were struck, but quickly left the scene. They radioed to the Butler County Emergency Communications District requesting immediate backup by law enforcement.

It has been reported that Shields set a mobile home behind his house on fire, and the firefighters were dispatched to answer the fire call.

When Deputy Russell Davis, Deputy Robbie Dean and Deputy Tim Williamson arrived at the location, they became the target of continued rapid firefight.

"When I got hit, it seemed as though he had pumped out 10 rounds all at once," Davis reportedly told officers when he was being loaded into a Greenville Fire-Rescue unit.

Because of the amount of rounds being fired at the officers and possible due to ricochets, it was unclear at first if there was more than one shooter firing on the officers.

Davis, Dean and Williamson were both hit by bullets - Davis took a round in his face, Dean in his left hip, and Williamson in his left leg.

Calling for any and all available assistance from law enforcement, the deputies sought to gain cover while returning fire, as Shields reportedly barricaded himself behind a pickup truck parked across his driveway in front of his home.

Greenville Police Department officers responding to the call for "Double Zero," which means an officer is being fired upon, were soon on the scene, and met with a similar fate.

Officer Dwight Hudson and his partner, Officer Ronnie Terry responded in one vehicle and were joined at the scene by Officer Albert Dyas, who responded in a second Greenville unit.

Dyas was struck in the arm and Terry, not yet through the police academy, was separated from Hudson, his training officer.

Hudson took a round through his foot near the ankle, and according to doctors at L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital was "extremely lucky," because the bullet went in and out without damaging any bone, cartilage or ligament. "It could have easily destroyed his ankle and foot," said Dr. Edgar Victoria, a surgeon called in by the emergency department.

Terry was struck in the back with a bullet but luckily his body armor deflected the round.

Shields also riddled three of the vehicles - Davis', Hudson's and Dyas' - full of bullets.

Officers later discovered that Shields had several high-powered assault rifles in his home.

While off-duty officers called to the scene from both agencies hurried to get the injured men away from the scene and attempt to secure it, they learned of a possible bomb in the house.

"Shields indicated that there was a bomb on the table in the kitchen," said Police Chief Lonzo Ingram. "Officers near the scene believed there were propane tanks in the house, booby trapped to prevent them from gaining entry and taking Shields into custody."

"Shields said he suffered from depression, and had not taken his anti-depressant medication for quite some time," Sheriff Diane Harris said after he was taken into custody.

Officers were able to get Terry, barricaded down in a ditch, to safety, and it was nearly 2.5 hours after the initial call when more than 50 law enforcement officials heard the welcomed call on a radio, "We have the suspect in custody."

When he heard that Ingram said, "Thank God."

"This was a very tense situation," said Ingram, who buried one Greenville officer, Gary Wayne Heath, several years ago when Heath was slain when he interrupted a robbery at an Interstate service station. "I am just happy that everyone will get to go home tonight."

"Thank you Jesus," was what Sheriff Harris said.

Officers from several agencies responded to assist the Sheriff's Department and Greenville Police Department, from as far away as Crenshaw County, where the agents from the Second Judicial Drug Task Force, and from farther away, like the agents from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI), who responded with a mobile crime scene unit and a bomb squad unit.

"It's standard procedure to call the state in to investigate whenever there is a scene to be processed where officers have been involved in gunfight," said Ingram.

Shields was taken to the Lowndes County Detention Facility, where he was placed under maximum security on a suicide watch.

He appeared in Butler County District Court at 10 a.m. on Monday, before District Judge MacDonald Russell, and was officially charged with six counts of attempted murder.

"We requested that his bond be set at $4 million," said Harris. "We then took him back to Lowndes County Detention Facility, because of concern for his safety."