[UPDATED: June 9, 2015 @ 3:58PM] OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE FROM EUFAULA POLICE DEPT.
This morning at about 8:30, the Eufaula Police Department received a notification from the State of Georgia of a stolen 2001 Ford Excursion vehicle that was located at the Wal-mart on South Eufaula Avenue.
Responding police units located the vehicle which was occupied by a white male, identified as Stephen Becker, age 32, of Suwanee, Georgia. As officers investigated, Becker indicated that he was a felon on parole and that there was a pistol in the vehicle. Becker then told officers that a second white male was the one responsible for the vehicle and that he was inside of Wal-mart also armed with a pistol. Becker also stated the person was violent and had bragged about a recent killing.
For public safety, the Wal-mart was sealed off while customers and employees were evacuated. As the store was secured, officers continued investigating information being provided by Becker. This led to confirmation that the person Becker claimed to be the second suspect was located in Conyers, GA, too distant to have been in the Eufaula area within the time of the event.
Still, Becker insisted that a 2nd armed and violent person was hiding in the Wal-mart. To ensure safety, the Wal-mart building was searched and cleared by both SWAT and K9 teams. To guard against the possibility of a suspect leaving the store before it was secured, intensive ground and air patrols were conducted in the surrounding areas and confirmed that no outlying threat was present.
While the initial crime report involved a stolen vehicle, the law enforcement response concentrated on ensuring the safety of the public. This resulted in the Wal-mart Store being closed for approximately 4 hours to ensure that no one was unnecessarily placed at risk.
After the store was cleared, law enforcement resources shifted to recovery of the stolen vehicle and investigation regarding Mr. Becker’s involvement. Becker at this time is being charged with Receiving Stolen Property in the 1st degree. Charges related to possession of the firearm by a felon may be forthcoming but will be coordinated with his parole authorities.
It’s important to note that area law enforcement trains and plans regionally to meet any such threats. This operation involved several agencies working cooperatively and included local, county, state and federal resources which we would like to thank. We would also like to recognize the professionalism of the Wal-mart management and employees in resolving this incident safely.
At this time it appears that Becker’s claims of a second suspect were an attempt to shift blame away from him. No injuries occurred during the incident.
Law enforcement officials in Eufaula are searching for a person suspected of stealing a car.
The Walmart in Eufuala was evacuated Tuesday morning, and Wallace Community College's Sparks campus was placed on a lockdown because of a suspected active shooter situation inside the store.
One of the suspects was at the car and detained by Eufaula Police.
The other suspect was inside and believed to have a weapon. Officers are still searching for this suspect.
At this time, there has been no gunfire.
The stolen vehicle was repossessed in Georgia Monday. Officials say the suspects went and took their vehicle back.
The Sparks campus is no longer on lockdown.
We'll update this story as more information is released.