[URL=http://onlineathens.com/stories/092507/news_20070925042.shtml said:OnlineAthens.com[/URL]]Ambush terrifies campers
By Joe Johnson | [email protected] | Story updated at 10:39 PM on Monday, September 24, 2007
A group of friends were enjoying the waning days of summer Sunday, camping on an island in Lake Hartwell, when men toting automatic weapons stormed ashore and forced the campers to the ground.
The men were officers with the Hart County Sheriff's Office, Hartwell Police Department and Georgia Department of Natural Resources looking for an escaped prisoner from Franklin County who eluded authorities for months.
The fugitive, 26-year-old Bobby Waco Sanders of Canon, was arrested on the other side of the island about 1 a.m.
Officers landed with heavy firepower because they heard Sanders vowed he wouldn't be taken alive, Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland said.
"We found out he was staying on this island with other (felons), and that they were armed and dangerous, and that Sanders said there was no way he was going back to prison," Cleveland said. "We were ready for a firefight."
After finding that Sanders wasn't among the campers, officers moved to the other side of the island, where they found the fugitive and a woman, Cleveland said.
Sanders tried to get away in a raft, and used the woman as a shield while he dumped items overboard that authorities suspect were weapons, according to Cleveland.
Officers later found used and unspent .22-caliber and 9 mm cartridge casings and shotgun shells in Sanders' tent, but no guns.
Officers charged into the water and fought with Sanders. He fell from the raft, and police pepper-sprayed him.
When he was back on shore, Sanders told officers he wanted them to shoot him because he didn't want to go back to prison, according to Cleveland.
John Pearson, a 27-year-old Pendergrass man, his wife and about 10 friends were spending the night on the island when law officers came ashore looking for Sanders.
"It was just an unmarked boat in the middle of the night that pulled in with no lights on and carrying men in army fatigues," Pearson said. "We really didn't know what was going on, and they never would tell us what was going on. We felt like we were in the middle of a movie. It was pretty wild."
Pearson didn't hear anyone identify himself as an officer, he said, and the scene might have ended badly.
"Me and my brother stood up and were fixing to jump on one of them," Pearson said. "Someone potentially could have gotten shot."
Pearson said his wife, Marlena, scraped her knees when an officer ordered her to the ground.
When they arrived, Cleveland and his men announced they were law enforcement officers, the sheriff said, and had to take down the campers until officers could decide whether they posed a threat.
The campers didn't seem upset, he said.
"They actually helped us get back into the boat," Cleveland said.
Sanders was arrested on an escape charge, and the woman with him, Sheila Canady, was charged with hindering the apprehension of a criminal, interference with government property, criminal trespass, possession of tools for the commission of a crime and aiding in the escape of a prisoner, according to Jimmy LeCroy, a Madison County sheriff's investigator.
LeCroy said Sanders escaped July 23 by removing a window. He suspects Canady passed him a tool for the job during a jail visit.
Sanders has an arrest record dating to 1999, and he served fewer than three years, from December 2004 to May 2007, after weapons and burglary convictions in Hart, Madison and Franklin counties.
After breaking out of the Franklin County jail, officials said, Sanders joined with another fugitive who broke out of prison in Augusta.
Cleveland said marshals caught the other man a few weeks ago at a campsite on the banks of the Broad River, but Sanders got away.
Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 092507