Major Greg Barney, a police officer with 25 years of experience on the force, died Thursday after getting into a shootout with a suspect in Riverdale, part of suburban Atlanta, authorities said.
The shooting occurred late Thursday morning as Barney was assisting Clayton County police with a narcotics investigation at an apartment complex in Riverdale, reported the Associated Press. They were trying to serve a warrant when the suspect ran out of the back door in an attempt to flee and opened fire on the officers.
Police returned fire and the suspect was hit, but two of the bullets fired by the suspect hit Barney in the arm and abdomen, critically wounding him. Police later revealed in a statement that Barney had not been wearing a bulletproof vest at the time because he was a member of the department's command force.
Barney was rushed to the Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale in critical condition where he went into surgery and later died, according to USA Today.
The fact that Barney wasn't wearing a bulletproof vest was a cause of concern for many, including retired officer and longtime friend Clarence Brown. "He would still be here with us," said Brown, questioning an alternative outcome had Barney worn a vest. "I'm upset. My heart is hurting for him and his family."
Addressing these concerns at a press conference, Police Chief Todd Spivey said that it's not uncommon for officers with mostly administrative roles to not wear a bulletproof vest, noting he himself wasn't wearing one at the time, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Despite that, he said the department will still use the incident as a chance to assess what it can do different in the future to avoid incidents like this from happening again.
"We've got to start a healing process obviously and we'll get there, but right now we've got to face the fact that we've lost a valuable member of our family," Spivey said.
In the meantime, the suspect, indentified as 24-year-old Jerand Ross, was in critical condition at Atlanta Medical Center as of early Friday. He is expected to be formally charged once he is released.