Sometime about 3:30 p.m. Austin Tyler, 20, was working on the residence at 15 Brent Circle with three other men. Sheriff Clark Millsap said Tyler opened fire, striking the three men. Royce Hobgood, 65, was deceased at the scene, and the two wounded were airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital.
“He left this location and went to a location on Milam Bridge Road where he drove his vehicle — a truck — into the side of the house, kicked the door in, went in and shot one of the occupants [in the hand] at that house,” Millsap said in a news conference on Brent Circle Tuesday evening.
After fleeing the residence, Tyler decided to change vehicles, taking a silver pickup from an elderly driver and the driver’s grandson.
“Upon leaving there, he got to River Oaks and carjacked [the pickup], left his there and ... shot into the car ... A chase ensued,” Millsap said of the carjacking.
Authorities in the area initiated the chase on Euharlee Road, following Tyler east on Highway 113.
“[Tyler] crashed into a lawn care trailer full of equipment. It exploded. It came to rest just outside the McDonald’s there on West Avenue,” Millsap said. “He had a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He is also deceased.”
Millsap said officers “fired no shots” during the course of the chase.
Bartow County Coroner Joel Guyton said Hobgood died of a single gunshot wound to the head. No information was available on the extent of the injuries to the two victims airlifted. Millsap declined to comment on the number of times the two men were shot and where on their body.
Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Jonathan Rogers did not return calls concerning the type and caliber weapon the shooter used, but Millsap said Tyler was armed with a handgun.
Although the sheriff said Tyler knew the residents at the Brent Circle and Milam Bridge Road locations, investigators are still searching for what prompted his rampage.
“Don’t have a motive at this time. We’re looking into every aspect we can. We think it possibly could be — and this is just speculation at this point — that this could possibly be drug-related. ... We’re going to be a while,” Millsap said of the investigation.
Authorities believe witnesses to the shooting fled the scene and could provide insight into what triggered Tyler to open fire.
When asked if agents had knowledge of Tyler or the locations, Millsap said, “I can’t make a comment about that at this time.”
He also declined to say whether Tyler had been on the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office “radar,” only that he had been arrested previously. Details on the number of prior arrests and charges were not available at press time.
Neighbors were visibly upset as media descended on the street where residents said “nothing like this” happens.
“I work from home and I heard gunshots but they didn’t sound close, so I didn’t think anything of it, probably about 20 [minutes] ’til 4. I came out onto my side porch with my dogs at 4 and the street was going crazy,” said Sarah Chapman who lives two doors up from the crime scene. “It has shaken, I think, all of us.”
According to Chapman, the residents of 15 Brent Circle had not resided there long. “They hadn’t moved in maybe more than a month ago, and I mean, I’ve seen them around but I’ve never actually spoken to them.”
For Millsap, an incident like Tuesday’s shooting spree “is something we never want to see.”
“We never expect things like this to show up in Bartow County, Georgia, but it is happening everywhere,” he said. “Fortunately, we are prepared for things like this. It’s a tragedy for everybody that’s involved. ... We just don’t want to see anything like this on our streets.”