A Georgia police officer shot in the line of duty has managed to mouth "I love you" to his wife, according to the local police department.
Covington police officer Matt Cooper, a 34-year-old military veteran who has been with the department for six years, is in the hospital with a bullet lodged in his carotid artery, said the Covington police.
Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton on Tuesday said Cooper was in "stable condition but very, very critical."
"Only thing he did was go to work ... and he was seriously, critically injured for doing his job," Cotton said at a news conference Tuesday, overcome with emotion. "Many of us feel like we're protectors and Matt Cooper is one of those protectors."
The shooting unfolded Monday afternoon when Cooper responded to a shoplifting report at a local Walmart.
The suspect exited the Walmart in Covington -- about 35 miles east of Atlanta -- and started to flee, and Cooper ran after him, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).
The suspect, 21-year-old Aaron Fleming, "ran across the street behind another shopping center where several gunshots were fired," the GBI said in a statement.
“”There is no such thing as a routine call ... today's an example of that.
A second gunshot was then heard, and Fleming was found shot dead, authorities said.
"Early information indicates that the wound was self-inflicted," said a statement from the GBI.
The state agency is handling the investigation.
Two other suspects are in custody, local police said.
"There is no such thing as a routine call ... today's an example of that," police officials said at a news conference Monday. "Things can turn bad and ugly in a heartbeat."
Thirty-eight officers have been shot dead in the line of duty this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. Thirty-two had died from gunfire over this same time period last year.