This story was updated Nov. 20, 2018, at 7:44 p.m. with more information.
UPDATE: Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson retracted his previous statement tonight that Robert Dean Root fired shots at two deputies in Rossville, Georgia, today. Root is serving time at Lee State Prison in Leesburg, Georgia.
Wilson also said that John A. Ross III — who was previously accused of riding with Root during a police chase today — may not have actually been in the car. After word initially came out that Ross was a person of interest in the case, officers found him and arrested him for a violation of his probation. But officers have not been able to confirm that he was involved in the chase.
Wilson said investigators believed Root shot at the deputies because they received bad information from the owner of a car that the shooter drove today. The woman told officers that Root was the driver. But later today, members of the Georgia Department of Corrections confirmed that Root is still in prison right now.
"We got to shake her down, find out why she lied to us, why she sent us on a wild goose chase," Wilson said. "... We're dealing with that now."
The shooter — whoever he is — remains at large.
ORIGINAL STORY: ROSSVILLE, Ga. — Investigators are looking for a man who they say exchanged gunfire with two deputies, ran into a home under construction and bolted into the woods.
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said Robert Dean Root, 41, emptied his automatic .45 during the shootout Tuesday afternoon, but he did not hit the two deputies. At least one of the deputies' shots, however, hit Root. He dropped his gun and left behind a trail of blood as he fled.
But Wilson warned Root may still have another gun.
"We consider Root armed and dangerous," the sheriff said.
Before the shooting, Root drove a Hyundai Sonata on Raydine Lane when a deputy tried to stop him at 2:28 p.m. Wilson said Root's window was tinted illegally, and he failed to signal when he made a turn in the neighborhood, located near James Street and Wilson Road.
Wilson said Root drove about a block, stopped and let his passenger, John A. Ross III, out of the car. He then whipped through a left and right turn and drove behind the neighborhood, down a path that led to a construction site. Three people were working on a home. Meanwhile, a second deputy had joined the chase.
Wilson said the two deputies got out of their vehicles, but Root opened fire. The deputies returned several shots. When Root's gun was empty, Wilson said, he dropped it and ran into the house. Before deputies could reach him, he ran out into the woods. Though the pilot of a Georgia State Patrol helicopter flow over the location, investigators did not find Root as of press time Tuesday. Deputies were also looking for Ross.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the circumstances of the shooting. Wilson told the Times Free Press he was not sure if anything was in Root's vehicle that would have motivated him to drive away from the deputies.
"This is a very lucky day for our department that they did not get struck and injured," Wilson said. "In this season of Thanksgiving, I'm very thankful."
Robert Barnes, who lives at the end of Raydine Lane, said he heard a police siren blaring outside Tuesday afternoon. When he looked out the window, he saw a car slam on its breaks. The patrol car then screeched to a stop right behind, almost hitting Root's car. He said Ross got out, and Root kept driving. The deputy shouted something at Ross and continued pursuit.
"(Ross) just walked away like nothing was going on," Barnes said.
About 30 seconds later, a second patrol car sped by his house in the same direction. He heard a crash in the woods. Men shouted at each other. He heard rapid shots pump out from a couple of different guns.
"It sounded like a war," he said.
Dozens of cars, trucks and ambulances arrived in the neighborhood minutes later.
Wilson said Root faces a charge of aggravated assault on a peace officer. He said Ross could face charges as an accessory to Root, though officers have not made a decision yet.
Officers have arrested Root three other times this year. In March, he was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, possession of Hydrocodone, possession of drug related objects and receipt, possession of transfer of a firearm by a convicted felon. He pleaded guilty to all four charges in September, according to the Walker County Clerk of Court's website.
In May, officers arrested him for possession of methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime and fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. He pleaded guilty to those charges, also in March.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.