published Friday, March 16th, 2012

Police say Dade County man shoots himself during standoff

  • photo
    Former Dade County Sheriff Patrick Cannon
    Photo by Matthew S.L. Cate

A Dade County, Ga., man yelled out the driver's window that deputies had missed him with their shots before turning a pistol on himself, authorities said.

Samson Gilbreath, 27, remained in critical condition at Erlanger hospital after he shot himself in the head during a standoff with police Wednesday night, Sheriff Patrick Cannon said.

Officers fired at Gilbreath, who was inside a minivan, after he raised his weapon at an officer, Cannon said, but they missed.

The standoff began about 8 p.m. after 911 received a call that Gilbreath had fired two shots at a relative's house on Lookout Mountain and was headed to his parents' home on Sand Mountain, Cannon said. As he was leaving, he made threats to kill his parents and his aunt, Cannon said.

A relative also called Gilbreath's parents and warned them to leave before he arrived, Cannon said.

When a special response team arrived at the home of Gilbreath's parents off Fuller Road, Gilbreath locked himself inside and threatened to make an officer kill him, Cannon said. A negotiator tried to reason with him, but Gilbreath became agitated, the sheriff said.

The standoff lasted about three hours, until Gilbreath -- who police describe as "mentally disturbed" -- walked outside holding a gun to his head, Cannon said. Gilbreath jumped into a minivan in the yard and tried to drive away, but officers shot out his tires, he said.

After yelling that the officers who shot at him had missed, Gilbreath pointed the gun under his chin and fired, Cannon said. He was airlifted to Erlanger hospital.

Gilbreath's grandmother said his family is heartbroken.

"He was a kind, gentle person," said the woman, who didn't give her name over the phone Thursday afternoon.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called to investigate the case, which is common in officer-involved shootings, said Jerry Scott, special agent in charge of GBI's office in Calhoun, Ga.

Investigators will make sure officers didn't break the law when they exchanged fire, he said. None of his staff is on administrative leave at this time, Cannon said.

Gilbreath has been arrested before in Trenton for disorderly conduct, the sheriff said.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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