Police: Gun was found 'with suspect'; autopsy reveals suspect shot twice in back

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com and tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 31, 2014 

A man killed by Columbus State University police Sunday afternoon was shot twice — once in the back and once in the back of the neck — according to the Muscogee County Coroner’s Office.

Zikarious Jaquan Flint, 20, was pronounced dead at 3:29 p.m. Sunday in the Midtown Medical Center, according to Coroner Buddy Bryan.

Though he has declined to discuss details of the shooting, CSU Police Chief Rus Drew said Monday afternoon “a gun was recovered with the suspect.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has taken the lead on the case.

A Columbus State University police officer, who has not been identified, is on paid administrative leave.

Flint’s family has hired legal representation and is looking for answers.

Flint was shot twice by one officer, but the university’s details of the shooting that happened on the main campus at the Courtyard North 1 apartments are being disputed by Flint’s family.

Three CSU police officers responded to the original call at 2:35 p.m. that a person at the apartment complex was seen with a gun, according to Drew.

Officers arrived a few minutes later, witnessed a suspect placing bullets in a gun and chased after him, CSU spokesman John Lester said Sunday afternoon.

They chased him to where he turned the corner of a building, faced the officers and raised his arm, and the suspect was shot, Lester said.

“CSU police shot a man (NOT a student) today after responding to CY1 on a report of a man w/a gun. The man ran but then turned threateningly,” read a tweet from CSU’s Twitter account.

Flint was still alive when he was transported to the Midtown Medical Center, Drew said.

But three eye witnesses dispute the claim that Flint had a gun while running from the officers.

According to attorney Stacey Jackson, a spokesman for the Flint family, the witnesses said Sunday night Flint was running away when he was shot.

“The three witnesses that I spoke to said Mr. Flint was running away, and he didn’t have any type of weapon in either of his hands while running,” Jackson said Sunday night.

The family initially wasn’t able to see their son, but “after hours of waiting, the coroner did allow the family to see the body at the hospital,” Jackson said.

“They did talk to some medical personnel that described his injuries to him. One shot hit in the back with an exit wound on the stomach. Another shot to the neck-head area where the lower part of the head meets the lower part of your neck. The bullet went through his mouth and may have even broken his jaw.”

Jackson said Flint was with a group visiting friends who were CSU students. He wouldn’t say why Flint might have run from police.

“I can’t answer that right now,” he said. “There’s some more detail I would like to get from the preliminary results.”

Jackson said Flint’s family told him Flint had no felony history, and Muscogee County court records show no prior offenses.

Homer Flint, Zikarious’ father, said Monday at Progressive Funeral Home on St. Marys Road that his son had never been in trouble and was planning to move to Jacksonville, Fla., this summer to attend Tulsa Welding School. He had recently gained employment with Kirby Vacuum after earning his GED certificate a year or so ago.

“My son was a great-spirited person,” Flint said. “I’m just at a loss for words right now, because that was my first and only son. We were close. We talked four to five days out of the week, just to see how the other was doing.”

Flint said his family is keeping the CSU officer in mind as the investigation continues.

“Both parties are grieving right now — the CSU officer as well as my family,” Flint said.

About 1,250 Columbus State students live in campus apartments, according to CSU’s website. The apartment complex where the shooting occurred is the university’s largest housing area with 444 students living there.

“This is a terrible tragedy,” CSU President Tim Mescon said in a news release. “We will cooperate fully with the investigation by the GBI. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved in this, as well as their families.”

Mescon said Monday he could not comment on the specifics of the incident until the GBI investigation concludes.

“There is clear protocol as long as investigation is active and ongoing that we are not to comment,” Mescon said.

CSU is offering counseling to students and others who seek it, Mescon said.

“Dr. Dan Rose and his counseling team have reached out across the university,” Mescon said. “The counseling team has responded appropriately on this campus and the RiverPark campus.”

Mescon said the CSU campus is safe.

“We have an outstanding historical record of creating a safe and inviting environment,” Mescon said. “Over the years, we have made modifications to ingress and egress to ensue the safety of our students.”

Columbus State police

Columbus State University has 25 sworn officers on its force, Drew said. They work the main campus and the downtown RiverPark campus.

CSU officers are required to have the same Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council certification as officers who work for municipalities.

CSU Police patrol regularly through the apartment complex.

Though she has rarely heard of crimes being committed in the area, forensic chemistry freshman Lisa Hill said CSU Police maintain constant patrol.

“I feel pretty safe here,” she said. “We do have gates but sometimes people who aren’t meant to be here slip by, and we should just remain aware of that.”

Columbus State did not send out an immediate notification to students, faculty and staff. Federal guidelines require the university to notify its community if there is an ongoing threat, Drew said.

“Before we would have been able to send out a notification, the suspect was in custody,” Drew said.

The university did send out information about the shooting later in the evening, Drew said.

“The loss of any life is of grave and serious concern to me,” University System of Georgia Hank Huckaby said in a statement. “I look forward to learning more from the law enforcement officials’ investigation. We will use any appropriate information to further enhance the safety and security of our campuses.”

GBI investigation

CSU Police Chief Rus Drew said the officer has been placed on administrative leave with pay. The officer’s name will be released as early as Tuesday, Drew said.

Drew and CSU Assistant Chief Mark Lott met Monday afternoon with Fred Wimberly, the GBI special agent in charge of the Columbus office.

“That was to go over the status of the interviews,” Drew said.

Wimberly said he could not comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation. He said Drew called in the GBI at 3:20 p.m. Sunday.

Wimberly would not estimate how long it will take the GBI to complete the ongoing investigation. He said interviews with witnesses are being conducted and the office is awaiting ballistics tests results.

Once the GBI finishes its investigation, the findings will be sent to the Muscogee County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Julia Slater said Monday her office is not yet involved.

Slater’s office will make the decision on whether or not to prosecute.

— Senior editor Stephanie Pedersen and reporter Larry Gierer contributed to this report.

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