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Beloved autistic man dies 11 days after shooting

Deonn Carter.
Deonn Carter.

A beloved Columbus autistic man has died in the Midtown Medical Center, 11 days after he was shot during an armed robbery attempt outside the apartment he shared with his mother.

Deonn Carter, 31, was pronounced dead at 11:41 a.m. Saturday, Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said. He died of a pulmonary embolism in the intensive care unit. His body will be sent to the state crime lab in Decatur for an autopsy.

Bryan said the pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that occurs in the lungs and can cause death instantly.

Carter’s death is from complications of the gunshot wound. The coroner said Carter had been in the hospital for some time and surgery was performed on his leg after the gunshot, two factors that could contribute to the blood clot. When asked if Carter would still be alive if he hadn’t been shot, Bryan replied, “The answer is yes.”

The death will now be investigated as a homicide. His mother, Suzette Ragland, has said her son had gone to get the mail when he was shot.

When firefighters responded to the shooting at the apartment complex at 5443 Armour Road, they were shocked to learn it was Carter, who is known as a friend among local firefighters and police. Police have yet to make any arrests.

Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr was among the first law enforcement to remember Carter on his Facebook page.

“I am deeply saddened to hear that Deonn Carter is no longer with us,” Darr wrote. “The world has lost a great man today and all law enforcement officers in Muscogee County have lost a true friend. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and loved ones, especially to his mother, during this time. If you need anything, do not hesitate to ask. The entire Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office stands with you and ready to assist in any way we can. Rest easy, my friend.”

Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren said the department is saddened by the loss of Carter.

“He was a gentle man who had stolen the heart of every person in our agency,” Boren said. “Deonn was a constant presence at all events sponsored by the department. He will be sorely missed at these events, especially the air show. I am sure that today Deonn is walking the streets of heaven with his big smile, wearing his honorary police vest. Columbus is a much better place because Deonn Carter was here.”

Ragland said she had been with her son Saturday morning before leaving for about 30 minutes. When she returned, she found the staff working on Carter.

“He was talking when I was there,” she said. “It all happened after I left. To be honest, Deonn I think knew he was fixing to go.”

She said her son was looking at a long road to recovery with physical therapy and he had to deal with replaying what happened to him. After a tough therapy session on Friday he asked, “Am I dead?”

She told him to quit talking like that, but that talk continued from him on Saturday. “I didn’t think about it until it was all said and done,” she said. “I tried to think about what I could have seen. Was it anything I could have done? I just replay the last two days in my head.”

Ragland said she will miss her son’s smile. “I feel like God didn’t want him to suffer,” she said. “He changed lives on this earth. He loved everybody.”

Carter is the 15th homicide in Columbus. Before his death, the latest homicide victim was Terry Cobb, 29, who was found fatally shot July 3 at the corner of Cusseta Road and 21stAvenue.

Staff writer Chuck Williams contributed to this report.