A manhunt is under way for two inmates accused of killing two guards on a Georgia prison bus on Tuesday morning.
Donnie Russell Rowe, 43, and Ricky Dubose, 24, overpowered and disarmed the two guards around 6:45 a.m. as 33 inmates were being driven between prisons, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told reporters. One of the two inmates then shot and killed both guards, Sills said.
“We are still desperately looking for these two individuals. They are armed with 9 mm pistols that were taken from these correctional officers. They are dangerous beyond description. If anyone sees them or comes into contact, they need to call 911 immediately,” the sheriff said.
The FBI said the fugitives were last seen getting into a “grass green,” four-door 2004 Honda Civic with the Georgia license plate number RBJ-6601, and driving west on state Highway 16 toward Eatonton, southeast of Atlanta.
The Georgia Department of Corrections identified the guards as Christopher Monica and Curtis Billue, both officers at Baldwin State Prison. Monica had been with the department since October 2009 and Billue since July 2007.
Sills was emotional as he described the scene.
“I saw two brutally murdered corrections officers, that’s what I saw,” he said. “I have their blood on my shoes.”
How the inmates managed to reach and overpower the guards remains under investigation, Sills said.
“They were inside the caged area of the bus,” he said. “How they got through the locks and things up to that area I do not know.”
Protocol is to have two armed corrections officers on the bus, but the officers don’t wear bullet-proof vests during transfers, Corrections Commissioner Greg Dozier said.
“We lost two of our fellow officers, two of our kin. We see our officers as our family,” Dozier said.
Monica was 42 and leaves behind a wife, while Billue was 58 and is survived by his father, brother and sister. The officers’ families are “dealing with it the best they can at this point,” Dozier said.
The inmates on the bus were being moved from a state prison in Hancock County to a diagnostics center in Jackson, where their next placement was to be determined, Dozier said, adding that inmates do not know their transfer dates ahead of time.
Gov. Nathan Deal said the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation with the help of multiple state, local and federal agencies.
Deal said of the officers: “The selflessness and courage of these two brave souls will not be forgotten, nor will their sacrifice and service.”
The governor urged anyone in the surrounding areas to be cautious while the inmates remain at large.
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said federal resources are being committed to help catch the fugitives.
“An attack on any American law enforcement officer is an attack on every American law enforcement officer and the principles we all believe in,” Rosenstein told a Senate budget panel in Washington Tuesday morning.
Both escaped inmates are serving long sentences for armed robbery and other crimes. The Department of Corrections said Rowe has been serving life without parole since 2002, and Dubose began a 20-year sentence in 2015.
Updated Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 4:05 pm