Investigators may never know what events led up to last week's fatal shooting of a 50-year-old bank robbery suspect at a south Forsyth gas station.
James Matthew Kenny of Cumming died Monday after being shot by Forsyth County Sheriff’s Sgt. William Brent Weeks.
Kenny reportedly refused to drop his weapon, forcing Weeks to open fire. Sheriff Ted Paxton said he thought Kenny was struck by four of the five shots.
“[Weeks] fired until the suspect went down,” Paxton said. “As soon as he went down, he stopped firing and that is what we train them to do. You neutralize the threat.”
Paxton added that Weeks was reacting to the information and circumstances he had at the time.
“He acted appropriately,” the sheriff said.
Weeks and deputy Greg Krause, who arrived at the scene during the shooting, have been placed on paid administrative leave. They are expected to return to work this week.
There has been speculation that Kenny, a house painter, may have been suicidal and was trying to get shot. Paxton discounted such talk, saying it may never be clear why the man acted as he did.
“The only one that knows is him,” Paxton said. “It’s almost like he put himself in a situation where he knew that was going to happen. That’s something you might think about, but once again that does cause for us to speculate on his frame of mind and obviously we can’t do that.”
Attempts to reach Kenny’s family members have not been successful. His funeral was Friday at Christ Redeemer Catholic Church in Dawsonville.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is handling the shooting probe.
A GBI spokesman declined to comment on details of the case, saying only that it could be several weeks until the investigation is complete.
Bank robberies and officer-involved shootings are rare in Forsyth County.
Karleen Chalker, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said she could not recall a fatal shooting involving a local deputy in at least 20 years.
Monday’s shooting was the first of any kind involving a deputy since May 2006.
In that incident, a Dawsonville man was shot several times after he fled a roadblock at Jot Em Down and Westbrook roads.
After his conviction earlier this year, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 10 on probation.
Bank robberies are no less common than officer-involved shootings in Forsyth.
Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Gene Moss confirmed that Monday’s incident was the first bank robbery in the county since March 4, 2008.
Robberies, Moss said, are not “one of our common crimes.”
“The apprehension rate when we do have them is pretty much 100 percent,” he said.
Moss said a lot of work is put into bank robbery investigations because suspects “generally do not stop until they’re apprehended.”
A 54-year-old Stone Mountain man has been charged with robbery by force and robbery by intimidation in the 2008 incident at a SunTrust on Buford Highway.
Authorities said the man was wearing a long, black wig and a pollen mask over his neck, leading witnesses to first describe him as a woman. He was arrested within hours of the incident.
There were three other reported bank robberies in Forsyth County in 2008, two of which happened in Cumming. The suspect charged in all three was found at a Dawsonville hotel.
Monday's bank robbery and shooting unfolded quickly.
An armed robbery was reported about 1 p.m. at the Wachovia bank at Bethelview and Castleberry roads.
Witnesses reported that a man holding a gun and wearing a cloth and sunglasses entered the building, jumped over the counter and took money before leaving in a work van.
The words “James Kenny Professional Painters” were written on the van.
Nine minutes later, Weeks reported that he was behind the vehicle. He followed it until it stopped at a Texaco gas station on Hwy. 9 near Hamby Road.
Kenny reportedly got out of the van with a gun in his hand. Weeks ordered him to drop his weapon, opening fire only after the suspect repeatedly refused to comply.
Evidence, including cash, linking Kenny to the robbery was recovered from the van, authorities said.
Paxton has previously said the suspect’s family suspected he may have had a drug problem.