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Caledonia Cookout Turns Violent

Afternoon Argument Sends One to ER, Two to Jail

Shooting victim Johnny Wells is loaded into an ambulance. Inset: Alleged Shooter Joseph Griffin

Shortly before 6:00 pm Sunday evening, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a shooting on Henry Lane, off of Anderson Grove Road. While deputies headed for the scene, the victim was rushed into town by a young woman in a green Ford F-150.  Staying on the phone with E-911, the young woman arranged a meeting with a BMH-GT ambulance at the Military Road Shell Station.  At the station (5:52 pm), EMTs tended to Johnny Wells, who had two gunshots to the lower right side of his chest.  Checking Wells over, they found gurgling sounds in his right lung.  Wells was stabilized and transported to BMH-GT (5:57 pm).  [I was on my way to Henry Lane when I passed the pickup on Ridge Road.  I turned around and followed them to the Shell station at about the same time as the ambulance. – JD]

At roughly the same time (6:00 pm), Lt. Clint Sims, Paul Greggs, Kevin Brown, Toby Rickert and  Stephen Johnson arrived on scene at 156 Henry Lane. At the home, belonging to Virginia Hacksman, Deputies advanced with guns drawn, ordering residents of the single wide trailer to place their hands on their heads and walk slowly away from the home. They quickly questioned neighbors in hopes of finding the shooter. Sims and Johnson searched the home, but found no one inside.

The Deputies were directed to a group of chairs under a tree in the yard. One witness said, “That’s where he was, he shot him, still sitting in his chair.”  [It appeared to be a party of some sort. It was a picturesque afternoon, and a wonderful day for a neighborhood gathering. I was told later it was a bbq. – CK]

Witnesses told Deputies that in the midst of a verbal argument, Joseph Griffin had shot Wells with a revolver without even leaving his chair.  Several 16oz Natural Light beer cans were on the ground near the chaise lounge chairs where the altercation originated, and the alcohol is believed to have contributed to the fight.

As deputies continued to investigate the scene, E-911 received a call from Joseph Griffin, saying he had “just shot someone”, and he was at his home on Kidd Rd.(6:05 pm).  Deputy Johnson secured the Henry Lane crime scene, and the remaining four deputies rushed down Anderson Grove Road to arrest Griffin.

After a brief strategy session on the shoulder of Anderson Grove Rd, the deputies proceeded north up Kidd Rd, swarming into the parking lot of a small trailer park in the 600 block, just past the s-curve.

Griffin immediately raised his hands in surrender, and slowly walked down his set of steps outside his trailer (6:09 pm). The 81 year old offered no resistance, and told Deputy Toby Rickert “I did it, I shot him” as he was placed in handcuffs.

Griffin also told deputies he had given the gun to a friend minutes before, but that he would help them find the man. A young lady from a neighboring home got in the front seat of a deputy’s cruiser to help lead them to Griffin’s accomplice. [From what I gathered later on, the young lady was told by Griffin to help deputies track down the weapon-CK]

The standoff with the van containing the gun.

Rickert transported Griffin to LDAC, as the other three deputies made their way eastward down Anderson Grove Rd in hot pursuit of the gun.

Joseph Griffin is taken into custody on Kidd Road.

With the assistance of the unidentified female navigator, deputies pulled over an older model Chevy minivan heading east on Vaughn Robertson Rd (6:19 pm). The three deputies approached the van with guns drawn- Greggs from the north driver’s side door, LT. Sims from the driver’s rear, and Brown from the rear on the passenger’s side.

Greggs repeatedly instructed the female driver, later identified as Laverne Jones, to exit the vehicle with her hands up. Jones complied and was ordered to sit on the road while the passenger was secured.

“Hands , hands…I need to see your hands !!” said Brown.

“Is there a gun in the car ma’am?! Is there a gun in that car?” asked Greggs

Grover Stanley Hudson, 46 of Steens, seemed somewhat slow in following the deputies instructions, but eventually made his way out of the vehicle. Hudson was placed in handcuffs by Brown as he exited the van.  [During this time, the tension in the air was quite palatable. Hudson was not very vocal in his responses to deputies, so I chose to take a slightly more defensive position for myself- neatly tucked in the prone position under the rear bumper of Lt. Sims’ cruiser. I later heard my tactful positioning might have been seen as a bit humorous to the deputies. I would like to say, however, that I was pretty impressed they kept their cool having been in three encounters within 15 minutes that required their weapons to be drawn. I wasn’t quite as composed -CK]

Lt. Clint Sims places the .22 revolver into the trunk of his car.

The occupants told deputies there was a gun in the van, and directed Deputy Greggs to a rusty .22 long barrel revolver, which was carefully placed in Lt. Sims’ trunk. Deputies continued to question the two as to the location of the gun used in the shooting after it was determined the .22 had not been the weapon fired.

The marijuana that fell out of Grover Hudson’s pocket.

After a brief search of the cab of the van, Deputy Greggs emerged with a .357 revolver along with three empty beer cans. Both guns were checked for any criminal history. (6:24 pm)

Jones explained to deputies that she had just picked up her beau, Butler, and they had just purchased the beer at a store just down the road. [The beers discovered in the van were also 16oz Natural light cans, which could lead one to believe Hudson was an attendee at the party where the shooting took place. Natural Light, according to The Beerfathers.com website, had the fifth most popular beer in the US, with a 6.1% market share- so it is conceivable it was just a coincidence. But Hudson would have had to drink at least three of the beers in the 4 minute drive from the gas station the driver alleged the beer was purchased from. An unidentified witness to the party told The Packet yesterday that all three men were indeed friends, and had been at the party together – CK]

Laverne Jones was told she would be able to leave and deputies determined Hudson was not an immediate flight risk, and he was uncuffed and told he would be able to leave as well. Jones then noticed the young woman in the deputy’s car and beckoned for her to come over:       “Whatcha doin? This was supposed to be on the down low!” she jokingly told the girl.

“He(Griffin) told me to help the cops find ya’ll, he told him he did it” the young lady replied.

Jones then embraced the young woman with a smile, saying: “It’s alright, you did good.”       [From what I understand, Jones did not know much other than that she was “helping out” Hudson. – CK]

As soon as the handcuffs were removed from Hudson, a baggie of marijuana fell from his pants to the ground. Jones quickly exclaimed that Hudsondoesn’t even smoke any weed, but Hudson was returned to his handcuffs after barely two minutes of freedom. (6:32 pm)  Hudson was charged with public intoxication and possession of marijuana, and will possibly face charges of accessory after the fact for attempting to hide his friend’s gun.

Johnny Wells was in stable condition at Baptist Hospital after emergency surgery Sunday night. The bullet missed his vital organs, and he is reported to be in intensive care as of Wednesday. Griffin was charged with Aggravated Assault with a Weapon  and is being held on a $50,000 bond.

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