A 55-year-old Commerce man will be charged with murder, aggravated assault and aggravated assault on a police officer after he allegedly shot and killed his 6-year-old grandson and wounded his wife as a domestic incident turned deadly early Sunday afternoon.
Robert L. Clarke Jr., 55, of 228 Troy Street will be charged with murder, aggravated assault and aggravated assault on a police officer. A 20-minute standoff ended when Clark was shot down at his front door by a volley of bullets from local lawmen after he refused repeated orders to disarm and indicated he intended to harm the police who had surrounded his residence.
Police chief John W. Gaissert said Clark shot his wife, Linda Dale Clark, 58, and his grandson, Michael Levigne, 6, who was dead at the scene. His wife was able to crawl out of the residence, and another son, Alex Levigne, 5, was allowed to leave and rushed to safety by lawmen. He is in the custody of the Department of Family and Children Services, Gaissert said.
The Clarks were both transported by helicopter to Grady Memorial Hospital where they were reported to be in stable condition.
Gaissert could not say what precipitated the carnage.
“I am not entirely clear at this point,” he said Sunday night. “I don’t have that level of information.”
Per the department’s policy, two officers, Jason Black and Tory Bell, were placed on paid administrative leave after shooting Clark. Gaissert said two Jackson County deputies, a trooper from the Georgia State Patrol and an officer of the Pendergrass Police Department all fired their weapons at Clark.
“This is clearly a very tragic incident for this community,” Gaissert said. "It was very troubling for everyone who was involved."
Commerce detective Chad Knight said the incident was dispatched at 12:56 by 911 as “gunshots with a barricaded suspect in the house.”
Rita Whitman lives at 261 Troy Street, across the street and just up the hill from the house.
She watched through a bedroom window as the situation unfolded.
“There were a couple of officers in front of the house with their guns drawn,” she said.
More police arrived and took up positions. Mrs. Whitman said she heard officers call repeatedly for the suspect to come out with his hands up, and she could see other officers working into position.
She could not see the front door of the house, but she watched as a male child came out and was whisked to safety by an officer. Five minutes later she saw four people carrying Mrs. Clark out from behind the house. She was taken to an ambulance and removed from the scene suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.
“About five minutes later, officers started moving closer. I knew it was escalating,” Mrs. Whitman stated.
Clark apparently came to the door, and officers warned him repeatedly to put his gun down, Mrs. Whitman said.
“Evidently he didn’t,” Mrs. Whitman noted. She said she heard multiple shots, approximately seven, and one of the officers signaled to the others that the suspect was down.
Clark was removed to a waiting ambulance.
Officers from the Commerce, Arcade and Pendergrass police departments responded, as did units of the Jackson County Sheriff’s office and the Georgia State Patrol.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is the lead agency in the investigation, Gaissert said.