DECATUR, Ga. – Police Officers Ricky Bryant Jr. and Eric Barker were making extra money off duty by patrolling an apartment complex, looking out for homeless people breaking into empty units.
They were gunned down early Wednesday morning at the Glenwood Gardens apartments, where residents say drugs and prostitution are rampant. Some of the residents were awakened by the gunfire but initially thought little of it.
"We always hear shooting," Patreka Anderson said. "I didn't think that was any big deal."
Bryant and Barker, both married fathers of four, were investigating a suspicious person when they were shot shortly after midnight, said their boss, DeKalb County Police Chief Terrell Bolton.
He didn't provide details about the shooting or say whether the officers returned fire, but said they were in their police uniforms and suggested they had been ambushed.
"They never had a chance," Bolton said.
One officer died at the scene; the other was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Police arrested a 32-year-old man later Wednesday and charged him with murder, said Officer Jonathan Ware, a DeKalb County police spokesman. Authorities were still looking for suspects Wednesday night, he said.
Ware said he did not have details on what led investigators to arrest Herbie Deshawn Durham hours later, other than "hard police work." He said authorities had received cooperation from the public, including residents of the apartment complex.
It was not immediately clear whether Durham had an attorney.
Police used dogs and a helicopter to search for the suspects, and schools were locked down during the investigation in the area about 6 miles east of downtown Atlanta.
At an afternoon news conference, Bolton called the shootings a "must-solve crime" and urged witnesses to come forward.
"Don't lie to us," he said. "Tell us the truth."
A $55,000 reward was offered for information leading to arrests in the case, county officials said.
"These police officers were heroes, they were committed and dedicated to law enforcement," DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones said. "We will not rest until those folks responsible for this are apprehended and justice is served."
Teofil Taut, who said he has owned the 176-unit complex for about two years and lives in one of the buildings, said he hired police as part-time security officers in December to keep homeless people from breaking in.
Another resident, nurse's assistant LaShawn Corbin, said she is considering moving, even if it means paying more for an apartment.
"We don't expect the people who try to protect us to be hurt so seriously," she said. Corbin said she would fear leaving her children there "because the person who did it has no conscience for human life."
Bryant, 26, was a two-year veteran of the department, and Barker, 33, had worked there for four years.
"It's a challenging day for us," Bolton said. "However, today's act of senseless violence is a display of what we're seeing around the country where people will shoot down a police officer without regard to any repercussions."