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Police chief issues update following parade incident
Jonathan Murrell
Chief Jonathan Murrell answers questions during Monday's news conference at the Rincon Police Department. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Anthony Rodriguez
Anthony Rodriguez - photo by Image submitted

RINCON -- The suspect who sent people scrambling for safety during Saturday's Freedom Rings Parade remains in the Effingham County Jail.

"I hope they enjoy many meals at the Effingham County Bed and Breakfast" Chief Jonathan Murrell of the Rincon Police Department said during a Monday news conference.

Anthony Rodriguez, who resides in Rincon and previously lived in Colorado, is being held without bond on a single count of aggravated assault after zig-zagging for nearly a mile against the flow of the Effingham Heroes-sponsored parade on Fort Howard Road. 

"There are more charges that are going to come ...," Murrell said. "... That's an evolving thing right now."

Murrell estimated that Rodriguez's Jeep Grand Cherokee came within close proximity to 1,000 people, including spectators, parade entrants, volunteers and public safety personnel, during his wayward trek from Lockner Drive to Market Street. Onlookers estimated that Rodriguez reached a high speed of at least 45 mph. 

Officer Ian Gallagher, who was at the tail end of the parade, ended the dangerous incident by slamming his K-9 vehicle head-on into the Grand Cherokee. The vehicles came to rest just short of a line of young parade watchers on the side of Fort Howard Road near Rincon Elementary School.

"(Gallagher) did a great, probably saved several lives and reduced numerous injuries," Murrell said.

Rodriguez avoided or ignored numerous attempts by other law enforcement officials and parade workers to stop. Sgt. Brad Hayes of the Rincon Police Department and Chief Deputy Richard Bush of the Effingham County Sheriff's Office had very close encounters. An officer from the Guyton Police Police Department was also involved.

In addition, Rodriguez dodged a Rincon Fire Department truck's attempt to block him.

Murrell was a passenger in a vehicle at the front of the parade with Sgt. Larry Harris when the danger began after Rodriguez turned onto Fort Howard Road after exiting Lost Plantation. They saw Rodriguez headed their way and considered hitting the Jeep but decided it was too dangerous.

"... if it was not a square, head-on collision, we risked the vehicle glancing off into the crowd," Murrell said. "Sgt. Harris didn't have a good shot at eliminating the vehicle."

Harris and Murrell did a U-turn and pursued Rodriguez until the crash. They converged on Rodriguez with Hayes and Gallagher, who had his weapon drawn.

Rodriguez resisted arrest, throwing his vehicle into reverse while being removed from it.

"It was very nearly a deadly force situation," said Murrell, who received a few scratches on his arms during the encounter.

Several spectators, who unanimously described Rodriguez as a woman, said he smiled or smirked while ignoring commands.

"There is no way that this individual didn't know what he was doing," Murrell said. "He exited his own subdivision and went toward the parade route."

Murrell, who described Rodriguez's behavior as "sickening," noted that signs announcing the parade were posted throughout the city two to three weeks in advance.

"My message to any individuals that won't to think about things like this in the future: If you intend to harm our children, our citizens and/or our officers, the threat will be eliminated by whatever means is necessary," the chief said. "Officer Gallagher did exactly what was necessary and eliminated that threat."

The chief said Gallagher is suffering neck and shoulder pain. He is home after being taken to a hospital Saturday.

Murrell said he spoke to Gallagher shortly before the news conference.

"He said he did what he hoped anyone one else would have done," Murrell said. 

Murrell requested that spectators or nearby residents who have video of the incident to share it with his department, which is also accepting statements from people who had " near misses" with Rodriguez.

The chief also expressed gratitude for the public's concern for his officers, especially Gallagher.

 "Everybody has been very supportive and we appreciate that," he said.