UPDATE: Investigators still can't link firefighter, robbery suspect killed in police shooting

Tony Carr’s relatives say he played no part in bank heist

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.com, ariquelmy@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 8, 2011 

An autopsy shows the passenger killed Tuesday in a truck driven by a suspected bank robber died from a gunshot wound to the chest, Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower said Thursday.

Autopsy reports from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Atlanta show the bullet that caused the fatal wound exited Fort Benning fire inspector Tony Carr’s back, Thrower said.

Rodney Wall, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Columbus office, said bullets struck Carr twice in the torso, but investigators still weren’t sure whether those shots came from the robbery suspect or from a police officer firing at the truck.

Wall said the GBI had not determined whether the robbery suspect had fired the gun police found in the truck with him on Tuesday.

Carr died at The Medical Center after the shooting outside 2907 Gardenia St., a house his brother said Carr rented when he wasn’t working for the military overseas. The truck he was in was a government vehicle he had checked out from Fort Benning, where he was a civilian fire inspector.

Police said the truck was driven by Alrahiem Tolbert, 30, who, while fleeing police, got into the driver’s side and tried to back over Officer Vincent Lockhart Jr., who was ordering him to stop.

Lockhart had just chased Tolbert from the MEA Federal Credit Union on Macon Road, about a block from Carr’s house, after seeing a masked man fleeing the bank about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The truck had been parked in Carr’s driveway, and Lockhart started firing at it after Tolbert tried to back over him, police said. As Tolbert backed out of the driveway and started forward, Carr fell from the passenger’s side, and the truck ran over his legs as Tolbert accelerated west on Gardenia Street toward Briarwood Avenue, where the truck crashed head on into a utility pole, police said.

Tolbert was dead at the scene with a gunshot wound to his head, the coroner said.

Carr’s brother, Michael Carr, 32, maintains Tony Carr was carjacked, and had nothing to do with the bank robbery. Authorities have acknowledged they’ve found no connection between the two.

The younger brother said his family has made no decisions about funeral arrangements. He, his father and brother all served in the armed forces and frequently moved, having no hometown, he said. “We’re military brats,” he said. ”There’s no place to bury him, to call home.”

Tony Carr served in the Air Force, where he became a firefighter until his service ended in 1999, after which he worked as a civilian firefighter for the military, the brother said.

Though certified as a fire inspector, his brother’s primary duty was as a firefighter, he said. Tony Carr’s fire inspection work was temporary, he said.

GBI technicians have been recovering all the bullets they can find at the scene of Tuesday’s shooting and examining holes in the truck.

They still have a lot of work to do, Wall said:

“We have to wait on lab analysis, stuff from the autopsy, evidence we collected from the scene, and they’re working on that as we speak.”

District Attorney Julia Slater said Thursday that it’s too early to decide whether a grand jury should review the fatal shooting.

“We’re way early for that,” she said. “The GBI will have to finish all of their stuff and get it to me, and then we’ll have to have time for me and my folks to review it, before we make any kind of determination like that.”

Lockhart remains on administrative leave with pay while the GBI and the police department’s division of professional standards investigate the shooting. Such steps are standard procedure after police shootings. The FBI will investigate the bank robbery.

Federal investigators have said bank loot and a large-caliber handgun were found in the truck with Tolbert.

Michael Carr said his brother routinely took a government truck home at lunch to let his dog out. He and his brother were on the phone together from 11:40 to 11:49 a.m. Tuesday, and the conversation ended soon after Michael Carr heard a stranger’s voice say “Move,” after which his brother told him, “Hold on.”

Authorities familiar with case law involving law enforcement officers’ use of deadly force said Thursday that even if Lockhart’s bullet killed Tony Carr and Carr had no connection to Tolbert, the officer’s actions still may be justified legally by the circumstances facing him at the time.

Police initially believed both Tolbert and Carr were involved in the robbery.

Deadly force decisions are not judged by information revealed “after the fact,” said Archie Rainey, who heads the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College at Columbus State University.

“You’ve got to take what he knew at the time that he did what he did,” Rainey said of the officer. “That’s what we call the test, the reality test: What did he know, and what did he see, and evaluating that, what did he think?"

He added: “He’s got to be in fear for his life or serious bodily harm, so that’s basically what you’re looking at — from the perspective of, take the totality of the circumstances that he is confronted with, and would it be reasonable for him to believe what he believed.”

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