GBI Investigates Shooting in Dooly County

Published 11:10 am Saturday, April 16, 2016

GBI Investigates Officer Involved Shooting in Vienna, GA


Vienna, GA – On Friday, April 15, 2016, at approximately 3:20 PM, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation responded to the scene of an officer involved shooting at the request of the Dooly County Sheriff’s Office.


On Friday, April 15, 2016, deputies of the Dooly County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) were dispatched to the residence of Joseph Harper, 685 Nelson Corner Road, Vienna, Dooly County, GA pursuant to a telephone call between Harper and the DCSO in reference to property being placed outside of the residence regarding a domestic divorce final decree. Joseph Harper and his ex-wife were scheduled to separate property at this residence on April 16th at 9:00 a.m.

Dooly County deputies arrived at Harper’s residence shortly after 7:00 a.m., and witnessed a large amount of household items and property had been placed in the front yard. A family member of Harper’s ex-wife was also at the residence and began to load the property with the deputies present. While loading the property, Harper was standing on the front porch wearing a bullet resistant vest, holding a shotgun in his hands, and had several handguns in holsters. Harper began to aggressively wrap the sling of the shotgun around his hand and tap the trigger guard with his finger. The deputies instructed the individual who was loading the property to leave the residence, and the deputies also left. The deputies contacted Sheriff Craig Peavy via telephone and notified him of the incident with Harper.

After telephone conversations between the DCSO and Harper, Sheriff Peavy and several deputies returned to Harper’s residence in an attempt to de-escalate the situation and retrieve the remaining property pursuant to a court order. Harper exited the residence with the shotgun and lowered the barrel of the shotgun in the direction of Sheriff Peavy and the deputies. Sheriff Peavy and the deputies backed away from the residence and requested the assistance of a Special Response Team (SRT) to assist.

An arrest warrant was issued by the Superior Court charging Harper with Aggravated Assault. While members of the Tri-County (Crisp, Turner, and Tift) SRT Team with support from Lowndes County SWAT and GSP SWAT were at the residence, Harper exited and entered his residence multiple times wearing a bullet resistant vest, gas mask, and other weapons to include a long gun and handguns. Sheriff Peavy and negotiators spoke with Harper multiple times via telephone in an attempt to reach peaceful resolution. Harper began to fire multiple rounds at the deputies and SRT members. During that time, at least one round of ammunition was fired by law enforcement officers in response to Harper’s aggressive actions. Harper continued to fire at the officers. SRT members fired canisters of gas and less-lethal deterrents in an attempt to bring about a peaceful resolution to this incident. A gunshot was heard from inside the residence.

A robot was deployed to enter the residence and discovered the deceased body of Harper in the living room area. Harper was pronounced dead at the scene and an autopsy will be performed by the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office in Macon, GA. No officers were injured during the incident.


The GBI will conduct an independent investigation to determine what occurred during the incident. When the investigation is complete, it will be turned over to the Dooly County District Attorney’s Office for any action they deem appropriate.