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National Guardsman kills sheriff's deputy and takes his own life

A National Guardsman who appeared to be drunk and firing gunshots at passing cars shot and killed a sheriff's deputy, then committed suicide on a Georgia road, authorities said Sunday.

Evidence shows Spc. Christopher Michael Hodges, 26, fired 35 rounds from his M4 semi-automatic rifle, Richmond County Sheriff's Capt. Scott Gay said. Hodges and Deputy James D. Paugh, 47, were found dead on the side of Bobby Jones Expressway after 1 a.m. Sunday.

Hodges served in the Tennessee National Guard but was on temporary duty at Fort Gordon in eastern Georgia for training, said Buz Yarnell, a spokesman for the military post. Yarnell said he was not aware of any problems with Hodges before the shooting, and he would not say if Hodges had previously been deployed in combat.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength told the Augusta Chronicle that Paugh was off duty and on his way home when he saw a suspicious car on the side of the road. He was shot several times when he stopped to check on the car and apparently fired two shots from his service weapon before he was killed.

"He was just checking that car. He pulled over his motorcycle and didn't even get to put the kickstand down before the suspect began firing on him," the sheriff said.

An autopsy is scheduled today in Atlanta. Yarnell declined to release more information on Hodges until the investigation is complete.

The Sheriff's Office said Paugh had been with the department for 17 years and was an avid motorcycle rider and cook. Gay said Paugh would cook turkey for his fellow deputies at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Authorities said Hodges had been having some sort of dispute with a woman, though it does not appear Paugh knew about that. Gay said authorities took the woman into custody for questioning.

No one else was injured in the shooting, Gay said.

Two people could be heard speaking inside a house at Hodges' last known address in Millington, Tenn., about 15 miles northeast of Memphis. A woman who answered the door at the house declined to comment to an Associated Press reporter and refused to say whether she lived there and if she was related to Hodges.

Neighbors said Hodges moved into the brown one-story home with his wife about a year ago. They said she also serves in the military and they were quiet or often away from home.

"He seemed like a cool guy, jovial," said next-door neighbor Melvin Johnson, 43.

Tennessee National Guard spokesman Randy Harris said he had no information about Hodges or the shooting.

Funeral services for Paugh were incomplete as of Sunday afternoon.

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