Atlanta, GA – A gunman who opened fire on a SWAT team in March was allowed to walk out of jail with nothing more than a signature bond.
A signature bond is simply a defendant's signed promise to appear in court.
The shootout occurred on near Memorial Drive and Moreland Avenue at approximately 12:30 p.m. on March 13, WSB reported.
Four SWAT team officers were traveling in an unmarked vehicle, when they passed by a Ford pickup truck with two men inside, WXIA reported.
“At some point the suspects made a gesture at the SWAT truck,” Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Jeff Glazier told WSB. “When they pulled up alongside the suspect vehicle, they looked and they saw the suspect loading a handgun.”
The armed passenger, later identified as 29-year-old Kenneth Gilbert, then raised the weapon and pointed it at the SWAT officers, WAGA reported.
The officers ordered Gilbert to drop his weapon, but he refused, according to WXIA.
As both vehicles traveled along Moreland Avenue, one officer opened fire, at which point Gilbert began shooting at the unmarked police vehicle.
“They certainly feared for their life, which is why they fired on the suspects,” Chief Glazier said, according to WSB.
Gilbert and his 59-year-old father, who was driving the pickup, were both wounded in the gunfight. They were transported to a local hospital in stable condition, WXIA reported.
The SWAT officers were not injured during the altercation, but their vehicle was damaged by gunfire.
The officers were conducting routine patrol prior to the incident.
Gilbert was charged for assault with a deadly weapon for shooting at the SWAT officers, WAGA reported.
Despite his attempt to murder four police officers, Fulton County Magistrate Hannah Chung granted Gilbert’s request to be released from jail on a signature bond on March 26, WAGA reported.
The prosecutor handling the case didn’t even object to defense’s request.
Atlanta Police Union President Vince Champion and area law enforcement officers were outraged by the decision.
“Do we have to get hurt before [anything] happens?” Champion aked the news outlet. “That’s what everybody’s thinking…every time they go up on a call. We have to get killed or hurt before the DA or the judges take it serious.”
This isn’t the first time that a violent offender has been allowed to walk out of jail.
“This has been a long time coming,” Champion said. “They keep doing this to us…You know, they get out before we get done doing the reports, but nobody wants to do anything about it.”
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard didn’t indicate that he was at all concerned that Gilbert and others accused of violent offenses have been released onto the streets in exchange for nothing more than their signature.
“I refuse to get involved in a back and forth argument with police officers,” Howard said in a statement to WAGA. “My preference is that officers follow their chains of supervisory command.”
Howard boasted that he meets with Atlanta Chief of Police Erika Shields on a monthly basis, and that he would be “happy” to speak with her regarding any concerns.
“The issues involved with police use-of-force cases are too important to handle in an oft-handed, gossip-like manner,” he declared.
Howard then insinuated that police were trying to stir up an argument with him.
“I have no fight with any law enforcement official in any department in our county, and I will not be baited into an unhealthy, no-win conversation regarding a case currently under investigation by the [Georgia Bureau of Investigation]," he said.