COLUMBUS, GA. (WRBL) – Thirty years ago, a mentally ill man walked into the lobby of the old Columbus police station on First Avenue and opened fire.
One officer was wounded and Clois “Sonny” Lamb died after being shot multiple times in the back.
Two key members of today’s police department didn’t realize that Thursday was the anniversary of the tragedy. Chief Ricky Boren and Maj. J.D. Hawk — both sergeants at the time — still have vivid memories of that terrible afternoon.
“I was talking to Sonny in the breakroom,” Hawk said. “He left to go back to his job and went to get in my car.”
Five minutes later Lamb was down.
“I got in my car and was fixing to pull out of the south lot when I glanced to my left and saw people running out of the police department,” Hawk said. “… You could tell something was wrong. They were hysterical. Then I looked to the front of the building and I saw two detectives running. And I saw the individual running in front of them.”
As detectives gave chase, Hawk apprehended the suspect, Kalvin Bailey, on the other side of the Government Center. He didn’t have a gun and was able to subdue Bailey with voice commands. He used his belt to cuff him.
That day changed a lot of things in the Columbus police department. There was little to no security in the old police station, which is where the RiverCenter sits today.
“At that time security was not the main issue as it is today,” Boren said. “We did not have people walking into public buildings and taking people’s lives. Today, it’s a reality.”
While Boren and Hawk clearly remember the day, Lamb’s son, Christopher, has been living with it for three decades.
“It doesn’t get any easier, but you get better at dealing with it,” Lamb said.
There is also a reality for the Lamb family. And that reality is the loss of a father, husband and friend.
The 43-year-old Lamb was a Vietnam veteran who had been on the police force for about three years. He had moved from patrol to recruiting, something he had done in the Army.
“I have known what today was for several weeks,” Christopher Lamb said. “It is always tough and on my mind whenever it’s coming up.”
It is the people left behind, like Christopher and his mother, Evelyn, who hurt the most.
“Later, his wife, Evelyn, and his son, I had the honor of escorting them to the National Memorial,” Hawk said. “There are some things that are not easy to do, but for them you do it.”