An assault in which a Southeast Moultrie man fired at another person was the apparent spark that ignited a 12-hour standoff that kept officers on watch through a hot Tuesday afternoon and late into the night.
James Ridley, who was in Colquitt County Jail Thursday on an assault charge, has a history of mental illness and is blind, neighbors and Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office reports said.
The standoff began about 12:32 p.m. Tuesday when officers, who responded to Ridley’s 508 11th Court S.E. residence, determined an assault had occurred involving Ridley, Moultrie Police Department Sgt. Rob Rodriguez said. As officers tried to defuse the situation, Ridley refused to surrender.
“Mr. Ridley told the officers he was not going talk with them and he had a weapon, and he barricaded himself in his residence,” Rodriguez said.
The Colquitt County SWAT team was called in and officers continued trying for hours to convince Ridley to come out without success.
Rodriguez would not give details about the assault or weapon recovered, saying the incident remains under investigation.
A sheriff’s office account of SWAT team involvement said that Ridley fired a pistol at someone. Moultrie police told the reporting deputy that Ridley is legally blind and had mental health issues, the report said.
Ridley was “highly agitated and visibly armed with a handgun,” the report said.
As officers waited outside, temperatures climbed to a high of 92.7 degrees with a relative humidity of 77.4 percent, according to University of Georgia web site that monitors weather conditions at Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition. A thunderstorm also hit the city during the evening as the standoff continued.
Five agencies, including police, sheriff’s office, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Moultrie Fire Department and Georgia State Patrol, were among those who waited out Ridley.
Moultrie Police Chief Frank Lang notified The Observer at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday that Ridley had surrendered without injury to himself or others.
“After some hours of negotiations with Mr. Ridley, and with the assistance of the Georgia State Patrol’s Special Weapons and Tactics team, Mr. Ridley surrendered to law enforcement officials,” Rodriguez said.
Family members provided information to officers of potential mental illness, but that information has not been confirmed, Rodriguez said.
The standoff came less than a year after the fatal shooting on Labor Day by a Moultrie officer of a man who refused to leave his residence as officers sought to talk with him about the breaking of a window at a convenience store. The shooting of Walter Wayne Peterson, 51, of 113 Seventh St. N.W., was ruled a justifiable shooting as officers said he ran at them with a knife when they entered his home. That apparently was the third fatal shooting by a police officer of a mentally ill black man in the city in about a dozen years.
Since Peterson’s death, some police department officers, deputies and Moultrie Fire Department personnel received training in recognizing mental illness and trying to resolve crisis situations without violence. Rodriguez has been certified to train other local officers.
Rodriguez did not say how the training may have assisted in this specific case, but said that Lang is dedicated to having all of the department’s officers certified in the crisis resolution techniques. Rodriguez is scheduled to teach a class in August.
“I’m of the opinion, personally, that it’s the best program we have out in law enforcement today,” he said. “The good thing is it was a successful resolution. It was hot out there, but it was worth it.
“Every situation that the police department handles, whether it’s this investigation or a traffic accident, we always handle it to the best of our abilities. Our goal is to bring a successful resolution to every situation.”
Ridley has been charged with one count of aggravated assault.