Georgia fugitives captured in Rutherford County

Jake Old • Jun 16, 2017 at 1:54 PM

Two fugitives wanted for the alleged murder of two Georgia corrections officers were captured in Rutherford County on Thursday night after forcing their way into a Shelbyville home and later shooting at two Rutherford County sheriff’s deputies, according to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office officials.

Donnie Russell Rowe, 43, and Ricky Debose, 24, were arrested at a home in a rural area of southern Rutherford County off Interstate 24 after help from alert residents who held the suspects at gunpoint.

After a police chase, Rowe and Debose approached a home where a resident and his neighbor were able to hold the suspects at gunpoint until law enforcement officers arrived.

No injuries to law enforcement officers or civilians were reported in the incident, and when shots were fired at Rutherford County deputies, the bullets hit their cruisers.

According to Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh, deputies did not return fire when the suspects shot at them.

“When the deputies attempted to stop the car, the car fled onto Interstate 24,” Fitzhugh said. “During the attempt to stop them, our deputies were shot at by the suspect, damaging two Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office vehicles. No one was injured or hit. We are very fortunate.”

According to TBI officials, Dubose and Rowe apparently forced their way into a home in Bedford County on Thursday at about 2 p.m. They held two people hostage for several hours and left the home shortly after 5 p.m. in the victims’ vehicle.

The victims were able to notify law enforcement about the incident and the identity of the suspects.

Officers began looking for the vehicle and a pursuit soon began from Bedford County along State Route 231 into Rutherford County, onto Interstate 24. Rutherford County deputies quickly tracked the vehicle as it crossed county lines, according to Fitzhugh.

According to TBI officials, the pursuit went for more than 20 miles and reached high speeds before the suspects fired shots.

The suspects eventually crashed near mile marker 91 and fled the scene on foot to a nearby home, where two citizens held them at gunpoint.

“This was a brutal double murder of two correctional officers that occurred in my county,” said Howard Sills, sheriff in Putnam County, Ga. “In 43 years, this has been the most intense manhunt I’ve ever been involved in with the most resources with state, local and federal offices and obviously other states.”

Fitzhugh said he spoke with Sills, and that Sills was very appreciative of the help from other agencies.

Sills thanked Rutherford and Bedford County sheriff’s deputies and other agencies that helped in the search.

“I was extremely fearful for other law enforcement officers in surrounding states,” Sills said. “It’s an ideal situation in the end. I am grateful to everybody and thankful to God himself for minimizing any further harm to anyone.”

Dubose and Rowe remained in custody of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office through Friday afternoon awaiting extradition proceedings. According to a social media update from the sheriff’s office, the two suspects will not fight extradition.

It has not yet been determined what charges the suspects might face in Tennessee. 

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