Sheriff Garrison: 'We Are All Grieving'
"Our worst fear is this young man gets free in that neighborhood with a loaded .357 magnum," said Sheriff Roger Garrison of the 16 year old who was killed after holding his mother hostage in Towne Lake.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is grieving.
"We are all grieving today," Sheriff Roger Garrison said.
"This is the most tragic thing I think that has happened in my tenure, possibly my career," he said.
Garrison recounts the events that took place in the Eagle Watch subdivision that lead to the death of 16-year-old Andrew Messina Tuesday evening, the day of the sheriff’s birthday, a day he said he wishes he could forget now.
He begins with the Etowah High School student’s mom calling Cherokee 911 dispatchers at 5:50 p.m. describing her son as out of control holding her against her will with a loaded .357 magnum revolver in their home. Her husband, Messina's father, was not home at this time.
Once deputies arrived on scene and were able to safely secure Messina's mother, Garrison said the captain decided a SWAT team was necessary because of the severity of the situation. Snipers set up around the home in a routine manner.
Negotiators were unsuccessful in establishing phone contact with the Etowah High sophomore who was currently on two types of medication and heavily intoxicated and moved closer to the front door, Garrison said.
“We would still be sitting there this morning talking to him if we could have established some sort of dialogue with him,” Garrison said. He stressed several attempts were made to connect with Messina, but the teenager’s screaming and threats continued to escalate.
Once within hearing distance and safely behind shields for protection, the two officers could see Messina pouring alcohol on the curtains threatening to set the house on fire and trying to remove his dog from the home.
Garrison said Messina suddenly came at the officers with his gun pointed forward by shoving it through the front door glass and that's when the sniper took action by firing a single, fatal shot through his abdomen.
Although the Cherokee SWAT team has used other methods when negotiating with other teenagers in the county such as tear gas and even using knives to take down suspects, the severity of this event was heightened because Garrison said Messina dictated the situation with his gun and emotions with it being a heavily populated area.
"Our worst fear is this young man gets free in that neighborhood," Garrison said, "we are not going to let him get out of the house."
The sheriff also said he believed the combination of the boy's medications and the alcohol played a role in the tragic incident.
Garrison asked the public to remember the officers involved as well because he said it's not an easy decision for the men and women involved who also have teenagers they go home to.
Watch his full interview in the attached video with all the details from the incident.