ATLANTA (CN) — The FBI has joined the manhunt for two escaped inmates who shot and killed two Georgia correctional officers on a prison bus in central Georgia Tuesday morning.
The fugitives carjacked a bystander and then fled the scene in the stolen vehicle, the authorities said.
The shootings occurred at about 6:45 a.m. in Putnam County, Georgia, about 80 miles east of Atlanta, after inmates Donnie Russell Rowe, 43, and Ricky Dubose, 24, overpowered the two guards in a bus transporting 31 other inmates.
After the slayings every correctional facility in the state was placed on lockdown.
“They need to surrender before we find them,” Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told reporters. “I saw two brutally murdered corrections officers. I have their blood on my shoes.”
“We are still desperately looking for these two individuals. They are armed with 9 mm pistols that were taken from these correctional officers,” the sheriff said. “They are dangerous beyond description. If anyone sees them or comes into contact, they need to call 911 immediately.”
The Georgia Department of Corrections identified the slain officers as Christopher Monica, 42, and Curtis Billue, 58. Both served as guards at Baldwin State Prison in Hancock County.
The two guards were moving the inmates from Baldwin State Prison to a diagnostics center in Jackson, Georgia. While one officer drove the bus, the other sat in a seat adjacent to him and a gate separated the guards from the inmates. Officials are still unsure how the two inmates managed to overpower and disarm the guards.
“They were inside the caged area of the bus,” Sills said. “How they got through the locks and things up to that area, I do not know. I can’t tell you how the gate got open. It should have been locked. It may have been locked. I have no idea.”
After taking the officers’ guns, one of the inmates shot and killed them, Sills said.
The two inmates then carjacked an approaching green 2004 four-door Honda Civic and drove west on Georgia Highway 16 toward Eatonton, which is roughly 65 miles southwest of Atlanta.
Several hours later, the Oconee County Georgia Sheriff’s Office reported that the inmates broke into a residence in Madison, Georgia, stole some clothing, left behind their prison whites, and escaped.
Both fugitives are serving long sentences for violent crimes including armed robbery and aggravated assault. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Rowe began serving a sentence of life without parole in 2002 and Dubose was sentenced to 20 years in 2015.
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has confirmed that federal resources are being committed to locate and capture the inmates.
“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 said during a Senate budget panel in Washington Tuesday morning.
Steve Emmett, a spokesman for the FBI, confirmed that agents were sent to Putnam County Tuesday morning.
“We may add more resources if this is a protracted manhunt,” Emmett said. “These two individuals have proven themselves to be extremely dangerous and with the murder of two correctional officers, they are on the radar of all law enforcement in Georgia.”
Officers are already speculating that the manhunt may come to a violent end. Elbert County Sheriff’s Captain Darren Scarborough, where Dubose was originally convicted of aggravated assault, armed robbery and theft, admitted that Dubose is well known to local law enforcement.
“He’s off the chain,” Scarborough said. “He’s just a loose cannon. He’s very dangerous and he has nothing to lose and I think he will go down in a blaze of glory. And that’s sad because some officer will have to answer for shooting him.”