2005-08-10 / Front Page

4-hour standoff ends peacefully

By Elizabeth Billips
True Citizen Staff Writer

By Elizabeth Billips
True Citizen Staff Writer

Above, Waynesboro Police Investigator Bobbie Jockel asks Deondray Johnson to surrender. Above, right, the SWAT team takes Johnson into custody after standoff.Above, Waynesboro Police Investigator Bobbie Jockel asks Deondray Johnson to surrender. Above, right, the SWAT team takes Johnson into custody after standoff.

A Waynesboro man wanted for numerous burglaries initiated a 4-hour standoff in Sylvania last Tuesday.

While no shots were fired and no threats were made, officers feared the worst after Deondray Johnson, 20, locked himself in an apartment with four small children and two stolen, loaded guns.

After three and a half hours, Waynesboro Police Department (WPD) Investigator Bobbie Jockel, who had been called in to assist, was positioned behind a parked truck and given a bullhorn to talk Johnson out.

Within 20 minutes, she’d done her job.

"I’ve known him since he was in special ed at the middle school," Jockel said. "I knew he was scared … he didn’t know the other officers, and when he peeked out the window and saw all those guns, he didn’t know what to do."

Jockel convinced Johnson to release the children, then to surrender himself.

According to WPD chief investigator Gene Boseman, Johnson is a suspect in at least two recent burglaries in Waynesboro, as is his cousin Willie Branch Jr., 18, of Millen, who was with him just prior to the standoff.

In late July, a considerable amount of jewelry was stolen from homes on Myrick and West Eighth streets.

Several hours before the stand-off in Sylvania, Waynesboro investigators interviewed resident Avis McNeely, 19, who said she’d been wearing a bracelet, earrings and diamond ring that her boyfriend, Thaddeus Kirkland, 26, bought from Johnson.

According to a WPD report, McNeely said she quit wearing the jewelry after hearing that investigator Jockel was looking for it.

"They (the burglars) didn’t know what they had," investigator Boseman said. "They were selling diamond rings on the street for ten and fifteen dollars."

Both McNeely and Kirkland were arrested after the stolen jewelry was found in a plastic bag along with marijuana, powder cocaine and crack cocaine.

Meanwhile, police in Sylvania set out looking for a suspect spotted during a Tuesday morning robbery and were pointed toward an apartment complex on First Street.

There, police spotted Branch, who matched the description of the suspect, and Johnson sitting together on the front porch of an apartment.

According to a report filed at the Sylvania Police Department, both men jumped up and tried to get into the apartment when they saw the police car.

Branch was detained, the report said, but Johnson "barricaded" himself in the apartment with the children and refused to open the door.

A perimeter was formed around the complex, and a Georgia State Patrol SWAT team arrived with high powered rifles.

WPD investigators Jockel, Boseman and Claude Wade were called in to assist, as were agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Screven County Sheriff’s Office.

"We were concerned about the children," investigator Jockel said in reference to the stolen firearms. "Two of the children also have terrible asthma, and they hadn’t had their medication that day."

According to an article published in the Sylvania Telephone, the children were all between the ages of two and four.

"He (Johnson) was babysitting," the children’s grandmother told the reporter, "He is my nephew … he didn’t hurt them, and I don’t want them to add any more charges on him."

Johnson and Branch are being held at the Screven County Jail.

Johnson is charged with four counts of kidnapping, two counts of burglary and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Branch is charged with two counts of burglary.

WPD has also issued felony warrants on both men in connection with the July burglaries, and additional charges are pending.

"I just feel fortunate to have someone Johnson felt comfortable talking to," WPD Chief Karl E. Allen said after the stand-off. ‘I’m glad she (Jockel) was able to help end it safely."

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