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Suspected bank bandit shot, killed
Authorities say man robbed Wachovia on Bethelview
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The Wachovia branch on Castleberry Road at Bethelview Road was robbed Monday afternoon. - photo by Jim Dean

A suspected bank robber was killed Monday in what authorities say was the first shooting involving a Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy since 2006.

The suspect, who authorities have identified as 50-year-old James Matthew Kenny of Cumming, died at a Texaco on Hwy. 9 near the Midway community. (click for map).

The incident happened about 10 minutes after Kenny reportedly held up a nearby Wachovia bank

Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton said the suspect was shot after a “confrontation” with a deputy.

“He pulled the wrong day and the wrong place to pull this stunt,” Paxton said.

Two sheriff's deputies, William Brent Weeks and Greg Krause, have been placed on paid administrative leave, which Paxton said is standard procedure in such situations.

Paxton said Weeks, a sergeant who has been with the department since 2002, shot Kenny. Krause, who joined the force in 2008, was at the gas station but did not shoot.

"Weeks did his job," the sheriff said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is handling the shooting probe. Paxton said investigators would review footage from video cameras in the patrol car and at the gas station.

He credited “constant training” that deputies go through for their ability to handle the incident.

“Even though this is a rare event for us, in this line of work there is no way to predict when and where this kind of thing is going to happen,” he said.

Authorities have not confirmed whether Kenny, who was traveling alone, fired on either of the deputies.

Paxton said Kenny had a criminal history, though he was not sure how extensive. Kenny used the van for his business, Professional Painting by James Kenny.

No one else was injured at the bank or gas station. Investigators found an undisclosed amount of money and other evidence from the robbery in the van.

"There is some evidence to suggest that he did have a drug dependency problem," Paxton said. "Obviously, we can only speculate."

The robbery and shooting unfolded quickly Monday afternoon.

Kenny was driving a white work van that witnesses said had left the bank on Bethelview Road (click for map), where an armed robbery had been reported about 1 p.m.

Officials with Wachovia declined to comment on the investigation. Sean Mabey, community bank president for Wachovia, would say only that the employees were "fine."

"They handled a difficult situation well," he said.

Nancy Parks said she was the lone customer inside the bank when a man entered wearing sunglasses and a piece of cloth that covered his head.

“He walked in and went right to the next teller and that’s when he pulled the gun and jumped over the counter,” Parks said. “He told the girl he wanted the money ... he grabbed a bunch of money, jumped back over the counter and went right out.”

When the man went over the counter, Parks said she turned her head so that he wouldn’t see her looking at him.

“I just acted like I wasn’t paying any attention to him,” she said, adding that the teller saw the man leave in a van.

About 10 minutes after the robbery, Weeks reported that he was behind the van. He followed it to the gas station a couple miles south of the bank.

At that point, Paxton said, Kenny got out of the van with a weapon in his hand. Weeks repeatedly told him to drop the gun before shots were fired.

Krause arrived about that same time.

"He pulled up as the shooting was going on," Paxton said.

Authorities closed off the gas station until about 4:30 p.m.

Both Chalker and Paxton said they could not recall the last fatal shooting that involved a sheriff's deputy.

Monday's shooting was the first of any kind involving a deputy in more than three years.

In May 2006, Michael Brandon McElroy of Dawsonville was shot several times after he fled a roadblock at Jot Em Down and Westbrook roads.

He reportedly nearly hit a deputy checking licenses at the roadblock before traveling into a pasture on Jot Em Down.

Deputies attempted to block his pickup from leaving the pasture.

Video footage from a patrol car, presented during McElroy’s jury trial in January, showed two deputies were injured after one opened the door of the truck.

The pickup then accelerated in reverse, knocking the deputies down.

At that point, authorities opened fire on McElroy, who was still in the truck. He testified that he was shot about seven times and doctors were not able to remove all the bullets in his body.

McElroy was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison and 10 on probation. His family has said they plan to appeal his conviction.