The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office lost one of their own on Tuesday night. They tell us, narcotics investigator Cecil Ridley was shot and killed outside the Augusta Mart. The convenience store is located at the corner of 12th St. and MLK Jr. Blvd.
Authorities say Alvin Hester Jr. is the gunman. They also say Hester was shot by other narcotics deputies who were on patrol with Investigator Ridley.
If you drive by the Augusta Mart, you will not see anything out of the ordinary. However, on Wednesday afternoon there were what appeared to be two bullet holes in the front door to the convenience store. The glass door has since been replaced while the store was closed on Wednesday.
There are not many businesses in the immediate surrounding area, but there are a few churches.
Green Grove Missionary Baptist Church is less than 3 blocks from where Investigator Ridley was shot and killed. The church has been in the Laney Walker Bethlehem neighborhood for almost 100 years. Deacon Joe Francis has been there for 23 of them.
Often, when people are grieving in a community they will go to a church and someone like Deacon Francis for guidance. He shares what the scripture says about a community in mourning.
“[The scriptures] say that if the community hurts then you hurt, not just the deacon or the pastor or anybody, but everybody in the community hurts,” says Deacon Francis.
He said he learned about the incident that happened so close to his church on the news. He says gun violence is something that has been on his mind before now.
“You know, I’ve been contemplating this for a long time. [I’m] definitely behind Sheriff Roundtree. He says that he wants to get rid of all of this, get rid of the guns you know and all this kind of stuff,” Deacon Francis says.
Green Grove Missionary Baptist Church and the crime scene are right in the middle of a handful of the city of Augusta’s projects that are part of the revitalization effort for the Laney Walker Bethlehem neighborhood.
Augusta’s Housing and Community Development Director Hawthorne Welcher tells NewsChannel 6 this tragedy shows how hard the sheriff’s office is working to reduce crime in the area. He says their presence is felt and a key factor to the desired change. Deacon Francis says love is also a necessary component.
“The bible covers that too,” Deacon Francis points out. “It says ‘love ye one another’ and if you love one another, you ain’t going to be carrying no gun to shoot and kill nobody else. Love doesn’t cover that.”
Deacon Francis offers their church as a resource to people who might be dealing with a myriad of negative emotions following this incident.
“If they know him, if he’s a member of the family of something, they’re going to have grief, shock, fear– all of that is going to come into play, but they have to remember that there is only one way to deal with it and that is through prayer and continuous prayer. Pray for whoever did it and pray for yourself and keep God lifted up and they’ll be alright,” Deacon Francis says.
The Augusta Mart has video cameras that point towards the front of the store near the gas pumps. We asked the sheriff’s office if they plan to release the video. The sheriff says the video will not be made available at this time.
The Sheriff says although Investigator Ridley is no longer with us, the suspect is still alive, which means a successful prosecution is a top priority and that includes protecting the investigation that is currently being handled by the GBI.
Photojournalist Mark Gaskins