Thursday, July 24 2014 11:46 PM EDT2014-07-25 03:46:21 GMT
Former Associated Press writer Jim Purks shared his experiences with people in Albany Thursday night.More >>
Former Associated Press writer Jim Purks shared his experiences with people in Albany Thursday night. More >>
"Sometimes, you know, it's hard being a sheriff," says Lee County Sheriff Harold Breeden.
Never has that been more true for Breeden. One of his top deputies, Captain Donnie Spillers, shot and killed Breeden's grand-nephew Sunday night.
Breeden struggles to balance the grief. "It's family, you know and I can't take sides, you know. Because, like I say, the sheriff's department's my family also," Breeden says.
Seventeen-year-old Wesley Beaver was a suspect in an attempted burglary at Leesburg Pawn Shop. Deputies Donnie Spiller and Sandra Fordham chased him up Highway 19 and forced him off the road. Moments later, Beaver was shot in the face.
"Donnie is torn up about this. And Sandra is, too. Donnie's one of the best officers I've got," said the sheriff.
Breeden doesn't know what led to the shooting. "The GBI, when we call them to the scene, we back off and it's theirs then. I haven't talked with any of the GBI agents."
And he hasn't spoken with Captain Spillers, who pulled the trigger. "He thinks I'm upset with him because he found out who Wesley was, my nephew, you know, and all like that. But he and I will sit down and talk. But the main thing is I gotta go talk to my friend, Roger.
Roger is the dead teenager's grandfather. "He's got the best grandparents there is." And he's Harold Breeden's best friend. "We grew up together, played sports together, fished together and I'm just hurt. I feel so sorry for him. Him, being one of my best friends I've ever had. And the whole family."
And for now, the sheriff can't face his old friend. But if he could, he'd "Tell him I'm sorry. Why couldn't this happen somewhere else? Roger and I grew up together."
Captain Donnie Spillers is on administrative leave right now and is said to be, understandably, distraught. It's the first time in his long career in law enforcement that he's been involved in a shooting.
The 36-year old Spillers started working with the Lee County Sheriff's Department while he was still in high school, 18 years ago. He rose through the ranks and was promoted to Captain in 2002.
A look inside Spiller's personnel file shows a top-notch officer, with letters of praise and commendation for bravery and service to his department with only minor reprimands for wearing out the brakes on his patrol car and tardiness.
He will remain on leave until the outcome of the GBI investigation.