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HELEN, GA– A 44-year-old Cleveland man suspected of robbing Mountain State Bank in Dahlonega on Thursday was shot and killed during an altercation with a Lumpkin County sheriff’s deputy and a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, GBI spokesman John Bankhead said Friday evening. An interesting twist – authorities now believe the gun he was using during the heist was a replica handgun, Bankhead said.
“That’s still to be determined,” he said. “From looking at the bank surveillance photos and the weapon we recovered, they do look similar.”
Bankhead said authorities determined that the suspect in the Mountain State Bank robbery lived in Helen. The suspect walked into the bank on Thursday and committed the robbery at approximately 4:35 p.m., making off with an undisclosed amount of money, Bankhead said.
Authorities received numerous tips from residents and law enforcement related to the suspect’s identity. Those tips all pointed at the same individual, Bankhead said.
“We IDed the suspect as a man living in the Helen area,” Bankhead said. “We did a photo lineup with the bank tellers at Mountain State Bank. Each teller identified him as the man involved in the robbery.”
After positively identifying the armed robbery suspect, state authorities asked the White County Sheriff’s Office to stake out the suspect’s home in Helen, Bankhead said.
The series of events that led to the shooting incident began around 1 p.m., Bankhead said.
As a White County sheriff’s deputy kept the suspect under surveillance, deputies and investigators with White and Lumpkin counties, as well as special agents with the GBI were meeting at another location securing warrants for the man’s arrest, Bankhead said.
“We got a call from the White County deputy that the suspect was on the move,” Bankhead said. “Deputies from White and Lumpkin counties and GBI special agents pursued the suspect. He crossed the Chattahoochee and when he was cornered by officers, he pulled a weapon and pointed it at the officers.
“The officers shouted at him repeatedly to put the gun down,” Bankhead said. “The man didn’t comply with those repeated requests. Two officers, a Lumpkin County sheriff’s deputy and a GBI special agent both fired at the suspect. The suspect was hit. He was still alive when Emergency Medical Technicians arrived at the scene. He died before they were able to transport him to a medical facility.
“We’re not exactly sure which shot was the fatal shot at this time,” Bankhead said.
The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene. Special agents with the GBI’s Athens headquarters are conducting the shooting investigation, Bankhead said.
Athens investigators later determined that the weapon the man wielded during the foot chase was in fact a replica gun, Bankhead said.
“I just got a look at the weapon and man, it looks real,” Bankhead said.
The suspect’s body will be transported to the GBI Crime Laboratory for autopsy, Bankhead said.
“That autopsy will probably take place tomorrow,” Bankhead said.
The man’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, Bankhead said.
“He is a 44-year-old white male, he had a Cleveland address,” the GBI spokesman said. “We also found out that he had been staying at his mother’s home in Helen. That’s where the incident began to unfold.
“I believe there were family members in the home at the time the man fled on foot,” Bankhead said. “I’m just not sure about that right now.”
The shooting remains under investigation. The officers involved will be offered counseling, Bankhead said.
“We don’t put them on administrative leave during the investigation,” Bankhead said. “That is left up to the officers.”
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