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Argument at sewage treatment plant ends in death

Posted: Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A Columbia County employee and father of three was fatally shot Friday while working at a wastewater treatment plant on Stevens Creek Road.

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Police say Raymond V. Lee, 38, of Grovetown, was shot at least once in the chest by a contracted truck driver hauling waste from the Reed Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Martinez.

Thomas Eugene Bradford, 42, of Hephzibah, a driver with Thomson-based Hudsons Grassing Co. Inc., was arrested Friday and charged with murder. Calls to the company were not answered Monday.

The men had argued about Bradford having too much "product" on his truck, according to a Columbia County Sheriff's Office report.

Bradford, who hauled sludge from wastewater treatment plants to facilities in Jefferson and Lincoln counties, grew upset and threatened to dump the waste on the ground.

A witness told authorities that it appeared that Bradford was going to run over Lee, who was standing in front of Bradford's truck.

Bradford got out of the truck and pointed a handgun at Lee, according to the report.

Lee tried to take the gun and the two men struggled. Bradford then pushed Lee and shot him in the chest.

According to police radio reports, Bradford called 911 and told dispatchers he had left his .380-caliber pistol on the running board of his truck. His call was disconnected, but he called back and said he was on his knees in the back parking lot.

Lee was taken to the Medical College of Georgia Hospital. An autopsy Saturday revealed that he died of a gunshot wound to the torso, said Columbia County Deputy Coroner Harriet Garrison.

A memorial was held for Lee on Tuesday at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church on Wheeler Road.

Lee worked for 14 years as a plant supervisor in the county, said Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross. His middle child has a heart condition and recently was accepted for treatment at a Mayo Clinic, he said.

"It's just a bad situation," Cross said.

County officials have set up an education fund for Lee's children, he said. Contributions can be made to the Lee Family Memorial Education Fund at any local Georgia Bank and Trust location.

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