'Gone as soon as he went under': Suspect's body pulled from river

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 2, 2014 

Columbus Fire & Emergency Medical Services crews have recovered the body of a suspect who fled police Wednesday morning by diving into the Chattahoochee River, officials said.

Coroner Buddy Bryan confirmed an EMS boat found 19-year-old Amere Ryshod Powell's body submerged near the City Mills just north of the TSYS campus at about 12:45 p.m. He was pronounced dead of accidental drowning at 1:30 p.m.

Powell, also known as Amero, was wanted in connection with a March 10 burglary that occurred on Calvin Drive. He has been sought since warrants were released for his arrest on March 14.

The teen suspect jumped into the river around 8:30 a.m. after officers tried to apprehend him north of the TSYS campus. Georgia Power Spokesman Robert Watkins said police asked the company to restrict water flow until the body was found.

"One of the officers actually tried to get in and pull him out, but he got away," Fire & EMS Deputy Chief Robert Futrell said. "The currents there are really bad. Even though Georgia Power tried to reduce the flow, they can only reduce the flow so much."

The river was at low flow when the suspect jumped in, Futrell said. Columbus and Phenix City police assisted in the search.

While rescue teams worked to recover the suspect, a woman unrelated to the incident jumped in about a quarter mile north of Powell's entry point.

"We got her back to the shore and police took custody of her for her safety, to try and make sure she didn't jump back in the river," Futrell said. "We initially were told she was a family member, but later learned that she was not."

Family members told officials the suspect couldn't swim, Futrell said.

"He was probably gone as soon as he went under," he said. "For somebody that couldn't swim it would be hard to get above the current. Even someone who could swim would have a hard time of it if they panicked."

About 15 minutes after Powell's body was pulled from the river, a Whitewater Express group scheduled for a 1 p.m. low flow trip paddled by the scene. Whitewater Express President Dan Gilbert said the company was worried they would have to cancel the trip, but were given clearance to continue just in time.

"We were sorry to hear that that had happened," Gilbert said. "I know what the guides have done is stayed in close contact with police department and EMS. We wanted to make sure EMS and police were comfortable with us going through."

Gilbert said this is the first time rafting guides have had to consider rescheduling due to a drowning.

"We've never seen this before," he said. "There was one incident last year where there was a drowning but we were not there because it happened at night."

Previous incidents

Since 2012, several people have been rescued from or drowned in the Chattahoochee.

In March, two children were saved from the current by Second Lt. James Lamoreaux.

Last August, the body of 44-year-old John Talmadge Attaway was pulled from the river more than two weeks after rescue crews responded to a report of a drowning victim.

Krystal Brown, 30, went into the river with her 11-month-old son, Mister Brown, on Aug. 13, 2012, after her three-year-old son, David Brown, fell into the water.

Krystal and Mister Brown drowned. David Brown was rescued and flown to a hospital in Atlanta, where he died days later.

Jarvis Willis, 23, died while swimming with two other friends on Aug. 19, 2012. His body was found the following day.

Harold Brock, 54, of Greencastle, Ind., died while swimming in the river on Sept. 4, 2012.

His wife watched him disappear near the Synovus building.

Stephanie Pedersen and Larry Gierer contributed to this story. An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the suspect as a white male. An earlier version also incorrectly identified a woman who jumped into the river in a separate incident as a family member.

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