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Lizella residents concerned about sheriff's deputies' response time

Lizella residents concerned about sheriff's deputies' response time / Eric Mock (WGXA)

LIZELLA, Ga. -- On Monday night, several residents of Hamlin Road in Lizella called the Bibb County Sheriff's Office to complain that they had heard multiple shots fired in their neighborhood.

Many of those residents reported calling 911 several times about the gunfire but never hearing from a responding officer.

One of those neighbors is John Whitehead, who said he called 911 several times and never heard back. He said he lives in the county and knows that people shoot guns but said he had never heard the high number of consecutive shots that he heard Monday night.

Jennifer Taylor, who also lives on Hamlin Road, said she was at home when she heard the first shots. She then went into her yard and heard more.

She said she called 911 because with gunfire so close to her home, she was scared for her children's safety. When she got on the phone with dispatch, she said she was told that they had received several other calls from the area about the same thing.

However, Taylor said that a deputy didn't respond to her neighbor's home for their call until about an hour later.

Now, some neighbors are left wondering if their calls to 911 are being heard despite living out in Bibb County rather than in Macon city limits.

Maj. Eric Walker with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office said that despite what some out in Lizella might think, the sheriff's office does respond to their calls.

He said that on the night in question, deputies were already stretched thin from responding to 18 other calls from the district Lizella is in unrelated to the shots fired calls. In total, Walker said that the sheriff's office had about 30 active calls from the Lizella area Monday night as the calls about the gunfire came pouring in.

Walker said that those 18 other 911 calls were higher on the priority list than the shots fired calls, which is why deputies responded to those first. That is not to say that gunfire isn't taken seriously, however. But Walker said that in Lizella, outside of city limits where the calls were coming from, firing a gun on your own property is legal.

Additionally, he said that dispatch had not received any calls from the area about any injuries related to the gunfire, so they were obligated to respond to other calls that involved injuries that were already happening or imminent threats of injuries first.

Walker said that when a deputy did get to the home from which the gunfire was happening, the deputies let those on the property know that they were shooting past 9 p.m., which is a violation of the local noise ordinances. He said that those shooting guns on the property told the responding deputy that they were unaware of the noise ordinance, apologized, and stopped shooting.

Walker added that the sheriff's office must prioritize the calls they respond to in order to ensure that they are protecting members of the community from the most serious threats that they face at any given time.

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