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Why do police, coroner give different homicide counts?


Columbus might have made it through August without another homicide.

Then Deonn Carter died Saturday, and a peaceful spell was broken.

Friends and family will honor his memory at 1 p.m. Friday at Cascade Hills Baptist Church, 727 54th St., where among those mourning the amiable autistic man will be the police officers and firefighters he befriended.

“He was a very, very special human being. He gave new meaning to the term ‘gentleman,’” said one officer. “If you didn’t know Deonn, then you cannot know the magnitude of his loss. I know a lot of our members shed tears upon hearing of his passing.”

As police mourn his death, they investigate his homicide, the result of a shooting during an attempted robbery Aug. 9 outside the Parkside at Britt David apartment complex, 5443 Armour Road.

As they probe his shooting, they add another name to their list of this year’s homicide victims, which now totals 13.

That’s the tally on the list the police keep, a list of “murders,” a legal term that differs from the “homicides” the Muscogee County coroner counts. The coroner’s list totals 15.

Why the difference?

Coroner Buddy Bryan does not differentiate between a homicide the police consider a murder and one they categorize as manslaughter or a justifiable shooting. A homicide is a homicide, to the coroner, whether it triggers a criminal case or not.

The coroner keeps death certificates and a computer database, and those records require a “manner of death” with only five categories: homicide, suicide, accidental, undetermined or natural (such as illness). The form has no category for “manslaughter” or “justifiable.”

These are the two homicides on the coroner’s list but not on the police list of “murders”:

  • Marquis Brown, 23, of Phenix City. Investigators said he died of a “blunt-force trauma” head injury after a Jan. 31 brawl outside Outlaws Saloon, 6499 Veterans Parkway. In this case, detectives charged a suspect with involuntary manslaughter, meaning the homicide was unintentional.
  • Jamyah Allen, 15, of Columbus. Investigators said the evidence in this June 9 shooting at 6023 Crystal Drive showed it was a justifiable homicide. Allen came toward a resident with a gun, and though the gun turned out to be an “Airsoft” BB pistol with its orange tip removed, it looked like a real firearm, police said.

Discrepancies between the coroner’s count and the police department’s are not uncommon. Police last year counted 17 murders; the coroner listed 22 homicides. In 2014, the police had 22; the coroner had 23.

These are the 13 victims remaining, so far this year:

  • Gloria Short, 54; Caleb Short, 17; and Gianna Lindsey, 11. This grandmother, son and granddaughter were found slain Jan. 4 inside the Shorts’ 3057 Bentley Drive home. Caleb Short was beaten to death; the other two were beaten and stabbed.
  • Marcus Barron, 33, of Columbus. He was fatally shot Feb. 13 during a dispute with a neighbor at 3909 Baker Plaza Drive Apartments.
  • Anthony Meredith, 24, of Columbus. He was gunned down March 26 near the southwest entrance of Peachtree Mall, 3131 Manchester Expressway.
  • Calvin Denson, 44, of Seale, Ala. He was shot twice in the chest April 30 during a dispute at Warren Williams Homes.
  • Richard Collier, 24, of Columbus. He was shot in the chest May 14 during a party at his 5908 Hodges Drive home.
  • Alcides Ruben Washington, 33, of Columbus. He was shot in the head while visiting a neighbor May 25 at 6736 Stone Creek Court.
  • Demonde Donya Dicks Jr., 24, of Jonesboro, Ga. He was shot in the head June 15 near the basketball court at Double Churches Park, 2300 Double Churches Road.
  • Kenneth Holloway Jr., 25, of Columbus. He was shot in the chest during an argument June 18 at 17th Ave.
  • Lekeshia Moses, 16, of Columbus. She was shot in the face July 1 at Wilson Homes, 3400 Eighth Ave.
  • Terry Cobb, 29, of Columbus, a suspect in a July 2015 homicide. He was found shot July 3 at the corner of Cusseta Road and 21st Avenue.

Authorities now add this to the roster:

  • Deonn Carter, 31, of Columbus. He died Aug. 20 after he was shot during a robbery attempt Aug. 9 at the Parkside at Britt David apartment complex.

“Deonn kept up with dang near everybody in the department,” a police officer said. “If he ever learned what squad or unit you were assigned to, he never forgot. And if you were transferred, well, he would just make the roster adjustments in his head.”

So far, only the latter two cases remain unsolved, and police Maj. Gil Slouchick believes clearing each is just a phone call away.

“It takes one phone call to clear these two cases that haven’t been cleared,” he said. Tipsters can reach detectives at 706-653-3400.

Officers often need the public’s help with homicides. “That’s the one crime we don’t have any control over,” Slouchick said.

Detectives occasionally remark that one reason more homicides aren’t on the books is improved medical care: Some wounds that once would have ended someone’s life now can be treated and healed.

Sometimes the difference between life and death is just luck, Slouchick said: Had the bullet gone a millimeter to one side or the other, it would have killed the victim, but it didn’t.

Here’s Columbus’ homicide or police “murder” count since the year 2000:

Seventeen last year; 22 in 2014; 22 in 2013; 17 in 2012; 17 in 2011; 15 in 2010; 13 in 2009; 30 in 2008, 24 in 2007; 17 in 2006; 22 in 2005; 25 in 2004; 19 in 2003; 20 in 2002; nine in 2001; 19 in 2000.