Police officer shot dead in Alabama

Authorities searching for suspect

By Amanda Watts and Joe Sterling, CNN
Rob Kim/Getty Images

(CNN) - The man suspected in the killing of an Auburn, Alabama, police officer late Sunday has been captured and will be charged with capital murder.

Grady Wayne Wilkes, 29, could face the death penalty if he's convicted in the death of Officer William Buechner, a 13-year department veteran.

"You shoot a police officer, we're going to pursue the death penalty," Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said at a news conference Monday. "Absolutely."

Auburn Police Chief Paul Register said the incident began when Buechner and Officers Webb Sistrunk and Evan Elliott responded to a domestic violence call.

A late-night domestic call

The shooting happened at a mobile home park about five miles west of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.

A person opened fire when the officers arrived. Buechner was fatally wounded and Sistrunk and Elliott were injured, with Elliott treated and released from a hospital and Sistrunk in satisfactory condition at Piedmont Regional Hospital in Columbus, Georgia, a statement from Auburn police said.

A massive search by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and information from tipsters in the community helped lead to Wilkes' capture Monday at about 7:12 a.m., authorities said in a statement. Police had considered him "armed and dangerous."

Wilkes was taken into custody about a mile from where the incident took place. He's being held in the Lee County jail. He's also facing three counts of attempted murder and a charge of domestic violence in the second degree.

Hughes told reporters that with a capital murder charge, the suspect is not entitled to a bond and "we don't anticipate him having a bond."

Hughes said Wilkes will sit before a judge soon and will have an opportunity to request a preliminary hearing.

In the military for a number of years

Register didn't offer much information about Wilkes. He said the suspect "Is someone we were not familiar with before this incident" and said Wilkes "was in the military for a number of years." He could not confirm which branch or for how long.

"We are thankful, at least, that the person that initially contacted us and these officers went to help was not injured and was able to escape the situation," Register said.

The police chief told reporters that the arrest came about as a combination of citizens reporting suspicious activity and law enforcement doing their job. He called the arrest "relatively uneventful."

"He was cooperative in conversations with law enforcement," Register said.

Praise for the officers

Register, who doesn't recall another police killing in his community during his stint there over the last three decades, praised the three officers, saying they exuded competence and dedication. He called Buechner a "very fine" officer.

"All fine young men," he said.

"Please keep those families in your thoughts. They are dealing with the unthinkable at this time," he told reporters.

"It's a difficult time for our entire community."

CNN's Sheena Jones contributed to this report

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