No one knows better the danger that a tense circumstance can present than police in the United States. Constantly under pressure to control people who are guaranteed rights that provide them a wide latitude of no control, the scenarios that citizens can present range from the mundane to sheer terror, even for a trained professional. With that thought, we continue to reflect on moments in the history of law enforcement we wish we could get back, the sacrifices of those that have paid the ultimate price on our behalf.
Fulton County, Georgia
Fulton County, Georgia is really a big city. It contains 90 percent of the City of Atlanta, and also contains metropolitan suburbs that surround Atlanta. Over a number of years, the odd “caterpillar” shape that the county has taken, is due to a series of land acquisitions and cedes, where new counties were created, and jurisdictions were handed over to Fulton County. A former county, known as Milton, was absorbed by Fulton during The Great Depression, and that forced the community of Sandy Springs to incorporate, because the residents didn’t want to be under the authority of county commissioners at the time. And since that time, many other attempts at changing the county layout have come to fruition, none have succeeded. This ongoing attempt at restructuring and reorganizing a particular county is of great interest to social scientists, historians, law researchers, and political analysts. Much of the motivations for the various attempts are alleged to be based on money, race, and indifference. This means that Fulton County, a major metropolitan area, continues to be at the forefront of the cultural pulse of the US. And that distinction carries in more ways than mere jurisdictional boundaries. Atlanta is home to a artistic renaissance currently, where people of many talents are calling it home, thanks in part to many major employers also calling it home. Our next officer was transplant to Fulton County as well. He definitely made it his home.
Officer Aaron Jovon Blount
On April 22nd, 2003, Officer Aaron Jovon Blount, a two-year veteran of the Fulton County Police Department, had been working at the main police station on a desk assignment. He completed his assignment, and went onto patrol towards the end of his shift that evening. He noticed a car driving recklessly along Roosevelt Highway, heading westbound. Officer Blount initiated a traffic stop near Ben Hill Road, adjacent a Shell Gas station, which had repeatedly been the scene of violent crime at the time, particularly armed robberies. Before Officer Blount called out the stop, and before he exited his vehicle, the driver, Kenneth Reese, exited his vehicle and opened fire on Officer Blount with a 9mm handgun, striking Officer Blount twice in the head. Reese retrieved another handgun from his vehicle, approached Officer Blount’s patrol car, and shot Officer Blount in the back of the head, execution style. Reese fled the scene in the vehicle, and Officer Blount died instantly, slumping onto his patrol car’s steering wheel, as it carried across the highway, across the grass shoulder and embankment, finally stopping against a set of railroad tracks that run parallel to the south of the highway. Another officer found Officer Blount, his overhead lights still flashing. Officer Blount was 26 years old, and is survived by his fiancée and now 16-year-old son.
The manhunt began from the scene, with the help of camera footage from the two gas stations at the scene, including the Shell station. The Fulton County Prosecutor’s Office issued a cash reward of $8,000.00 for anyone providing information that led to the arrest of Reese. Five days later, U.S. Marshals and Miami-Dade Police arrested Reese, as he attempted to board a Greyhound bus, to relocate yet again. Reese faced the death penalty, but his defense attorney managed to present a motive, concerning the now banned diet drug, Ephedra, as causing Reese to go into an acute mental crisis, influencing his rash decision making that evening. Six years later, Reese pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without parole. The Georgia Department of Corrections lists three charges that led to convictions for Reese, one providing 20 years, the other two providing five years each. Presumably, Reese could be released after 30 years in prison, but not on parole. It would have to be a full release from custody. While that may seem implausible, stranger things have happened.
Officer Blount had wedding invitations in his patrol car when this incident happened, and the first set of invitations had just been mailed out the day before his death. Officer Blount and his fiancée had planned their wedding to take place in Las Vegas. While it is sad enough that Officer Blount left behind a child, what is equally sad is that Officer Blount spent his off time coaching a youth basketball team at a nearby park. In a community starving for strong male community leaders, South Fulton County lost one on April 22nd, 2003, over a traffic stop and diet pills. We can’t think of a graver injustice.
In memory of Officer Aaron Jovon Blount.