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09-30-06, 03:34 PM #1
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Law enforcement officials search an area near Interstate 65 in Autauga County as part of the investigation.
-- Lloyd Gallman
Woodward served time in 1990 slaying
Officer's Reserve unit colleagues outraged
Video: Officer shooting suspect apprehended in Georgia
Accused cop shooter captured in Georgia
Police shooting suspect fights return to Alabama
PHOTO OF OFFICER HOUTS RELEASED
MPD: Officer was shot several times
Court records: Woodward killed girlfriend in 90s
Traffic on I-65 backed up for miles as officers search for gun
Bright says suspect connected to other crimes in city
Bright updates officer shooting case
Officer's uncle thanks city, residents for support
Officer Keith Houts Shot
The man accused of critically wounding a Montgomery police officer is returning today from Georgia, where he was arrested Friday afternoon.
Mario Woodward waived extradition in a hearing at a Henry County courtroom this morning. Woodward, 32, has been charged with attempted murder of a police officer in connection with the Thursday shooting of officer Keith E. Houts.
Houts, 30, remains in the critical care unit at Jackson Hospital with a bullet wound to his head and a severed spine.
Once back in Alabama, Woodward will be held on a $1 million bond, said Capt. Huey Thornton, a police spokesman. The time of the suspect's return is not being released.
Woodward was captured about 4 p.m. after hundreds of law enforcement officers across Alabama spent most of the day conducting a massive manhunt.
"We are very relieved," Mayor Bobby Bright said Friday. "Please keep in mind, this is just one step in the right direction. Let's continue to remember (the officer and his family) in your prayers."
Several homes and businesses in Lowndes and Elmore counties were searched, and traffic was tied up for hours in the northbound lanes of Interstate 65 in Autauga County as officers looked for the gun believed to have been used in the crime.
Police are not releasing any information about the gun pending further investigation.
Woodward was picked up at a Texaco gas station in McDonough, Ga., south of Atlanta in Henry County, Ergas said. He had been under surveillance since Thursday by the Gulf Coast Task Force, made up of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.
"The only reason this guy was caught so soon was the task forces we have made up in Alabama and Georgia," said James Ergas, a senior inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service. "We had cooperation with all state and local agencies. It wasn't just the U.S. Marshals."
Ergas said Marshals Service investigators on the task force tracked Woodward to Birmingham. The investigators believe two people drove Woodward there.
"A lot of information was developed in Birmingham," Ergas said.
The investigators used surveillance to identify associates of Woodward in Birmingham and track their movements, he said. The surveillance eventually led investigators from Birmingham to Atlanta, then to a Henry County gas station.
"(The driver) parked in a gas station with the fugitive, and we were able to set up surveillance," Ergas said. "We're able to lock the area down. We didn't know if he went out back there (in the woods). We had dogs out in case he dropped any evidence."
Rajendra Bandi, a clerk at the Texaco station where Woodward was captured, said the suspect came into the store to ask for directions.
"He asked me how to get to Moreland Avenue, but I told him that was too far away and I didn't know how to get there," Bandi said. "He was talking to somebody on the phone, and he told the person that it was too far. Then he walked out and was standing outside the door."
Bandi said Woodward looked "like he was waiting for somebody to come and pick him up." He had been waiting for 10 to 15 minutes when the U.S. Marshals swarmed in.
"They came in and grabbed him and put him on the ground," Bandi said. "After a few minutes, they picked him up and then started patting him and looking in his pockets."
It is unknown if Woodward has family or friends in the Atlanta area. Bandi said Moreland Avenue is a street in north Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta.
Woodward was booked into the Henry County jail about 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Montgomery police Friday released more details about Houts' shooting, which occurred during a routine traffic stop. Houts, they said, fell to the ground after being shot in the head. Then, Woodward allegedly fired "three or four" more shots, striking Houts in the chest.
Those bullets did not wound Houts because he was wearing a protective vest, Bright said.
"That vest is the only reason he's still alive today," Bright said.
A fund has been set up at Wachovia Bank on Houts' behalf. Donations to the Officer Keith Houts Fund can be made at Montgomery Wachovia Bank locations.
Bright said evidence gathered shows that Houts followed proper procedure in pulling over the car. Bright called it a "textbook stop."
"He (Houts) did everything right," Bright said.
Houts' uncle, Jerome Putman, was relieved by the news of Woodward's capture but said the family's thoughts were back with their loved one.
"We're just thankful that part is over," Putman said. "But we're all keeping our thoughts on Keith."*A GIRL COP*
In Loving Memory Officer Keith Houts
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