Whose place is it to protect and serve?

  • 14 COMMENTS
Whose place is it to protect and serve?

Criticism of the Aiken County Sheriff’s Department and the local court system has been coming hot and heavy in the wake of last weekend’s murder/suicide involving a 67-year-old mentally disturbed grandfather and his 16-year-old grandson.

While shock, heartbreak and confusion are certainly understandable in the aftermath of such a horrific event, misplaced blame is certainly not going to help bring anyone closure in this tragedy.

For the last 40 years, Ronnie Wilson was an abusive alcoholic. At least that is what his friends and family have been telling the authorities. His estranged wife Anna knew it; they maintained separate residences right next door to each other in the woods off Whaley Pond Road.

She says Ronnie was a tortured Vietnam veteran. A PTSD victim who self medicated with whatever booze he could get his hands on. A mean SOB who seemed to be getting meaner and more aggressive. Three days before the events that ended his life, he was booked into the Aiken County jail on charges of criminal domestic violence.

According to reports, the final conflicts began to manifest last Thursday. He apparently was mad with Anna about a bill that involved one of the family pets and he confronted her and their grandson and his girlfriend with a handgun. When officers were dispatched to the scene, they discovered Ronnie Wilson back in his own house, obviously drunk, but with no handgun to be found. No matter: Wilson admitted to the charges and said he often walked into his ex-wife’s home with a gun in his hand. Officers looked but could not find the handgun, and if Ronnie knew where it was, he wasn’t talking.

Off to the jailhouse he went.

He was in custody approximately 19 hours, according to The Jail Report, and then released on a minor bond.

Details are sketchy and investigators are not talking about what happened, but shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon, he confronted the same three in the living room of Anna’s house, this time, I am told, with a shotgun.

Sixteen-year-old Gerald Wilson courageously stepped between his grandfather’s raised weapon and the women, as the troubled elder screamed, “I am going to kill you all.”

The young man had the face of a movie star and the charisma of Prince Charming. But all that he was destined to be, and all the life he had yet to live, was forfeit in that very instant. One blast and he was gone. The noise, the confusion, the violence… it was enough to stagger the grandfather for just the short moments it took for Anna and Dareyla Kirkendahl, Gerald’s girlfriend, to safely run out of the house. I am told Dareyla was so narrowly missed by the subsequent shots that followed that she actually suffered powder burns.

Anna Wilson was able to flag down a passing deputy, who almost immediately witnessed Ronnie Wilson end his own life with the same weapon he used to attack his family.

We have been told that Wilson was only released from custody when it was made clear to him to stay away from his estranged wife, and after she had been notified by “an automated call” that he was indeed being released from jail. I understand that since no real violence occurred in the Thursday confrontation, there was little the department could do to keep him, based on the charges at hand.

I know many officers who work for Aiken County Sheriff Mike Hunt, and I can tell you that if any of them had the chance to be there, one on one, to confront Ronnie Wilson Sunday afternoon, they would have used every bit of their know how, training and weapons to keep Gerald and the others safe from harm. Sadly, they were not on the scene. You can’t intervene when you are nowhere near the bad guy.

He had no formal training, but Gerald Wilson did step up. For that, I have no doubt that he died a hero, saving two lives, and perhaps others, in the process.

If the dangerous behaviors of Ronnie Wilson were not distinctly known by lawmen, they certainly seemed to be known by the adult members of his own family. What was it they have told authorities? “Years of alcohol abuse.” More than a decade of “irrational behavior.” Epic tantrums and dangerous threats, blamed on a mental condition brought about by traumatic war service.

How in the living world do you allow a man like that to get anywhere near guns, alcohol or anything else he could easily parlay into an afternoon straight out of a bad horror movie?

Gerald Wilson was not betrayed by the legal system, nor any man who wears a badge. He was let down by those in his own family who allowed the living monster next door such easy access to such dangerous things. While I can almost guarantee you no one wanted Ronnie to have guns and liquor, it does not appear they did a hell of a whole lot to prevent it, either.

Damn shame.

  • Mrs. Wade

    It’s a “Damn shame” that you would blame the family. If you are going to write stick to the facts. Not your “opinion”.

  • aftergods heart

    Austin, you are one of the most inconsiderate people I’ve ever had the misfortune of knowing. It’s a shame you make such foolish assumptions about a family you know nothing about. Especially, during their time of absolute grief and despair. May you never know the pain this family has suffered.

  • Brandy

    First off this all happened on Saturday. Get your facts straight. You seem to have alot of opinions on things you know absolutely nothing about. The story you have is a little off too. I am geralds cousin and ronnies great niece. As a member of the family I do not appreciate your sick twisted outlook on a truly tragic situation. If you didn’t know them you have no right to say anything about them. How dare you blame a pained and heartbroken family for something none of us can control. This is just the new gossip to you but sadly this is a reality myself and my family have to live with forever.you should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Beth Chesnut Folland

    Wow…once again, Austin Rhodes shows his true colours. You are so arrogant! You have no clue what you are talking about and absolutely no right to judge. You are a pretentious jerk (yes, I had other words that I would rather use). Unreal, but not surprising. Disgusting though that the Metro would even post this.

  • Austin Rhodes

    Sorry for using Sunday instead of Saturday, my mistake.

    Now…what else in the piece was incorrect?

    The information was supplied to me by direct correspondence with a close relative of one of the victims, and several public safety personnel who were either on the scene, or spoke with those who were.

    As far as whose place it is to express an opinion in this situation, when deadly felonies are committed and blood is spilled, it is no longer a private matter. Ronnie Wilson was clearly out of control, and very sadly, the only people who had the access and the knowledge to stop him, was his family. The police can only respond to specific information they are given, and if Ronnie frequently appeared at his wife’s home with a gun in his hand (as the police report in my possession indicates), someone should have been raising sand about it until he was disarmed and his behavior controlled.

    Gerald is a true hero, he stepped up, and by taking the first blast from the sawed off shotgun (a highly illegal weapon), he bought the split seconds needed for his girlfriend and grandmother to escape alive. While at 16 he was old enough to make that sacrifice, he would not have had the legal ability to challenge the sanity or gun ownership rights that the adult members of his family certainly could have begun to question via court petition.

    As I pointed out in the column…”damn shame.”

    • Brandy

      The grandmother was already out of the house.he did save his girlfriend however. You are right about that. The any booze he could get his hands on comment is crossing the line. He wasn’t screaming like a maniac about killing people. Also understand that your story comes from someone who knows afamily member. Not anyone who was there when we found out they had past away our spoke to a detective. You didn’t know them. You don’t know what Geralds laugh sounded like or how much he loves his family. He would be disgusted that people like you are saying these things. And my uncle Ronnie, You don’t know what he saw or what he went through in war. He had trauma from that. There is no excuse for what he did. Also it isn’t private that’s exactly my point. Glad your catching on. But it SHOULD be left alone by people who don’t know them. This doesn’t effect you in any way so go on about your life and be happy that you don’t have to experience this kind of loss and then have people attacking your family on the internet.
      I’m not the only person who thinks your little story is trash! You don’t have one positive post on here and no one seems surprised that you would be so disrespectful.especially to a close member of the family who is grieving. You are the most discusting person I’ve spoken to through this whole ordeal. You have no respect for the dead. And obviously no talent in writing. It’s not your business so please leave it alone. The family is hurting enough with out you trying to blame us. It isn’t anyone in the families fault. Your story doesn’t include that he had called the police earlier on Saturday to try and resolve the problem they were having and received no help…there are so many things you don’t know about and since they aren’t your business or anyone else’s I’m not putting all of my uncle’s business out there. You don’t know anything that you think you do. Not all aspects of your story are wrong that’s not what I’m saying but I am saying there are alot of parts left out and until you talk to someone who knew him personally. Not a “friend” of a family member who obviously isn’t a friend at all. Then maybe you could write an article with some taste.

      • Brandy

        I also wanted to add.it was a normal occurrence for him to have a gun on him anywhere on his property. I just love how that’s been twisted around to seem like he just walks over to my aunts house everyday with a gun to threaten or scare her. He loved to hunt deer and squirrel. And he loves in the woods so he had it for protection. Maybe your not a nasty person. Maybe your info has painted this picture of my uncle being a monster. Maybe the person you spoke to is angry with him. As are all of us, believe me. But he is still a loved one and just because one family member thinks it’s okay for you to trash talk him doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt the rest of us seriously. Keep that in mind.

      • Austin Rhodes

        Allowing a mentally ill alcoholic to routinely walk around with guns…unchallenged…is insane. See what happened?

        If one person sees this story and acts to prevent another tragedy, then it is more than worth the trouble to tell the story. Sorry your family is grieving…I suggest you tune out the conversation the way you were able to tune out Uncle Ronnie all these years.

        When a man does what he did, there is no such thing as “family privacy” in discussing how to prevent it from happening again. Uncle Ronnie blasted this story into our lives…we did not go looking for it.

        • Brandy

          You are mentally ill in my opinion.you have no remorse. We never thought it was this bad to where he would harm or kill anybody. He wasn’t this horrible man you portray him as. He served our country in the marine corps. He was a father, an uncle, a grandfather, a brother, a husband. And he was loved by many. He did a horrible thing but that doesn’t make it everybody business. Your resources are weak and are only focused on dehumanizing him and our family. People do horrible things everyday. Do you think that their family saw it coming and chose to ignore it? If so, your crazy. No one saw it coming. Just like the police, we didn’t know this would happen. He called the police for help. They left knowing he was upset. Had he called any of us we would have removed him from the situation. But unfortunately he called on the wrong people for assistance. Maybe you should use this page for good. Write an inspiring story about how Gerald pushed his girlfriend out of the way. And how at 16 he was more of a man than you or anyone else I’ve ever met is. How much courage it took to act in a split second to save the life of someone he loves. Use this power for good Austin. Not for inflicting pain on an already hurting family. I hope you are very proud of yourself. You havnt noticed that not one person has been effected positively by your piece. Your making a very bad name for yourself.and it doesn’t look any better on you that your hurting me on comments everyone can see. How do you want to be remembered when your time here is done?

          • Austin Rhodes

            Climb out of your cave Brandy. I am not supposed to have remorse…I did not kill anyone, or sit back and allow a clearly disturbed alcoholic to keep loaded firearms at his side.

            I am not here to make you feel better, but telling this story may wake up a few folks who are making the same mistakes your people did. Turn off the computer, the TV , and the radio and go grieve.

          • Brandy

            “You can’t intervene when your nowhere near the bad guy” and “misplaced blame isn’t going to help bring anyone closure in this tragedy” I’m wasting my time here. Austin, have a good day and I hope you are blessed with a tragedy free life.

          • Kathryn Dismang-Cross

            Wow! I’m reading through this conversation between you and Brandi I am…well…disturbed! I understand you are reporting, Austin. You’re facts may be correct. Your opinion about alcohol & weapons may be shared, as well. It isn’t rocket science to know the two don’t mix. However, it doesn’t always equal tragedy. That’s what this is! Your insensitivity and bold statements aren’t going to prevent even one future tragedy. If it would, more people would understand your stance. I don’t think your cold. Probably the contrary. It sounds like you are angry and are grieving in your own way for this brave young mans’ senseless and seemingly preventable death. Blaming is normal. If you, not even knowing this boy (i could be way off track and sorry if I am) could be feeling this way, how much stronger is the need to blame for his loved ones? Please be sensitive to their pain. Don’t add to their tragedy. It isn’t helping the next person.

  • aftergods heart

    Apparently, you feel the arrest just days before the shooting was not a cry for help from the family!!!!He was arrested and released by Aiken County, not the family. Did he not have a LONG criminal record? Should have, could have, would have…..Many people can point fingers in this situation, but you are dead wrong in blaming the family and not public officials who could have done something more.

  • aftergods heart

    Austin, you have absolutely no respect and you should be ashamed of yourself.

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