Only hours into the new year, Newton County Sheriff's investigators were back on the street hunting for a suspect who allegedly shot a man in the back of the head and attempted to rob another early Tuesday morning.
Courtney Thornton, 25, reportedly shot Dennis Rogers, 38, while the pair were passengers in a green 2001 Jaguar S-class shortly before 4 a.m. on New Year's Day. Thornton rode in the backseat while Rogers rode in the front passenger seat and another man drove. The shooting occurred on Gum Tree Trail about 100 yards from Thornton's residence.
What happened after the victim was shot is still under investigation, but NCSO Lt. Bill Watterson said the driver of the Jaguar was able to escape from Thornton and later made contact with a NCSO deputy at the Kroger on Salem Road.
Deputies rushed to the scene of the crime and found Rogers still alive slumped in the Jaguar. He was life flighted to Atlanta Medical Center where he is currently listed in critical condition.
Watterson said more information surrounding the case is currently being withheld until an arrest has been made. When Thornton is arrested, he will be charged with aggravated assault, armed robbery, possession of a firearm during a felony and possession of firearm by a convicted felon.
"Georgia law does not have a charge of attempted murder," Watterson said. "The charge used to confuse juries so they changed the charge to aggravated assault."
Aggravated assault can carry a prison sentence of no less than one year and no more than 20 years in confinement, Watterson said.
If the victim dies, even months later, Watterson expects Thornton would be charged with murder.
"There is no statute of limitations on murder," Watterson said.
Busy New Year's
While investigators were tied up with the shooting case, NCSO deputies and Covington Police officers were plenty busy with other crimes during the holiday.
"I'd say we had an average call volume for New Year's holidays which is a high call volume," Watterson said. "New Year's is associated with alcohol and we saw a lot of calls for disorderly conduct from drinking and for DUI."
Less than 10 minutes before the clock struck midnight and the New Year began, Eljay Thornton Jr., cousin of Courtney Thornton, was arrested for disorderly conduct and drinking under age after attempting to fight his father. When deputies arrived at the house, Eljay Thornton Jr., 19, was reportedly pinned on the ground by his father to ensure his son did not hurt anyone.
According to reports, the first DUI arrest of the New Year occurred when a CPD officer apprehended 67-year-old Gloria D. Ashby. The suspect reportedly blew a .186 on the breathalyzer twice after the arrest. A man told the officer Ashby hit him with her car, but she denied the claim, "I did not hit him. He was peeing on my car when I was leaving."
Several others were arrested throughout the early morning as they drove home from parties and bars, reports indicate.
Watterson said the department also received an unusually high number of shots fired calls on New Year's Day as people fired their guns into the air to celebrate.
"Those bullets have to come down somewhere," Watterson said.
The calls ranged from noise complaints to property damage when the bullets actually struck peoples' houses.
Anyone with information regarding Courtney Thornton' whereabouts is asked to call the Newton County Sheriff's Office at (678) 625-1403. Tips may also be given anonymously at (678) 625-5007 or on their Web site www.newtonsheriffga.org.