Nationally wanted jewelry thief eludes capture in Gilmer County

Featured Stories, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A nationally known jewelry thief narrowly escaped capture in Gilmer County after trying to sell stolen goods to North Georgia Diamond located in East Ellijay.

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Digitally enhanced footage of the suspect.

Earlier in the day of Saturday, June 2, a man entered The Blue Ridge Diamond Center in Blue Ridge, Georgia. It was there that the master thief was able to pocket a four-carat diamond tennis bracelet.

The owners of The Blue Ridge Diamond Center immediately notified police of the theft, and they also made it known to several area jewelry stores to be on the lookout for the male suspect.

Bill Craig, owner of North Georgia Diamond, described how the thief is able to steal these precious stones despite the added precaution taken by jewelers: “He confuses people and builds their trust and gets them to show him a bunch of different things.”

The suspect then goes on to become comfortable in the stores even sitting down to discuss custom jewelry options. Through sleight of hand, the suspect usually pockets a single valuable item and makes a casual exit from the building.

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The suspect interacting with employees and looking at jewelry.

After stealing the four-carat diamond tennis bracelet, the suspect made his way to North Georgia Diamond in hopes of unloading his prize.

The suspect came into the store asking to sell the tennis bracelet, but staff quickly realized this was the thief from earlier in the day and notified law enforcement.

The staff stalled while police arrived. In the meantime, however, other customers entered the store.

Officer Tommy Long with the East Ellijay Police Department described the events upon arriving at North Georgia Diamond shortly after 2 p.m.: “When I arrived on the scene, I entered the business and observed two males talking with a sales clerk. Another male was to my right.”

While trying to silently verify which male was the suspect, the male to Officer Long’s right received a phone call and stepped out the door.

Craig, owner of North Georgia Diamond, immediately notified Long that the suspect was the male walking out the door.

Like the suspect had vanished into thin air, Long described exiting almost immediately after him: “As I exited the store, the male was nowhere to be found. I looked around all other businesses and beside and under porches but was unable to locate the subject.”

The suspect, having to make an unexpected exit, did leave behind the stolen tennis bracelet and a driver’s license.

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Possible vehicle that the suspect is traveling in taken from security cameras.

The Oregon driver’s license identified him as Richard Laracuente. This name traces back to a number of warrants for theft across the United States. The suspect has also been known to use the name Robert James Allen, which too traces to numerous warrants for theft.

“It’s a pretty serious thing,” Craig said of the thief. “He’s a pro.”

Craig belongs to a group of jewelers who contact each other regularly via social media. It was on this site that Craig found out after leaving his store in Georgia, the suspect robbed a store a couple of states away in the following days.

“He hit a store in Kentucky,” Craig explained, “and those people had seen all the posts about this. They had seen what I posted.”

In Kentucky, the suspect was able to get away with a three-stone diamond ring.

Despite Craig’s warnings, the thief is able to continue his crime spree because, according to Craig, “he’s a very good master of disguise.”

“I warned everybody on the Facebook group,” Craig stated of his actions to try to warn fellow jewelers. “I said he’s going to hit. He’s going to hit again, and sure enough.”

Jewelry stores across the nation are asked to be on the lookout for the suspect and to contact local law enforcement immediately if the suspect enters their premises.

 

[Featured image: ID left behind by suspect when making his exit from North Georgia Diamond.]

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Nita Cagle speaks about life on the campaign trail

Election 2018

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Georgia’s current Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle continues to make his way across the state in his bid to become Georgia’s next governor. Recently, Cagle made stops through north Georgia as part of his campaign on a two-week venture dubbed the “Cagle Country Bus Tour.”

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Nita Cagle speaks to a group of youths in Blairsville, Georgia.

While supporters and undecided voters alike packed venues to hear the candidate speak in their hometown, many were surprised to see another Cagle family member emerge from the bus to give her take on why Casey Cagle, her husband, should be Georgia’s next governor.

Nita Cagle has been by Casey’s side for 32 years. In those 32 years, the Cagles have raised three sons and are currently enjoying the addition of three grandchildren to the family, but raising a family and having a life in politics has not always been easy.

Cagle holds the title of Second Lady of the State of Georgia, but she said what she is most proud of is her title as wife, mother and now grandmother of the Cagle household.

“I’m the inaugural member of team Cagle,” Georgia’s Second Lady joked as she spoke of the family’s early years in politics.

Casey Cagle first ran for Georgia Senate District 49 in 1994. At that time, both of the Cagles were in their late 20s and just beginning a family.

“Casey had helped a friend run a campaign,” Cagle spoke of how their life in public service began. “Over the next couple of years, I saw the spark start.”

Cagle admits that when she first noticed Casey was showing interest in this field, that she was “a little hesitant” to jump on board but says that her faith changed her attitude.

“I had many nights, many talks, and eventually a calmness just came over me, and I was okay with it. So when he came to me and said this is something that is on my heart, I already knew,” Cagle spoke candidly of her acceptance to stand by Casey as he joined the political arena.

When asked if she felt she had known of Casey’s intentions before he spoke openly of them, Cagle laughed and said, “Actually, he probably already knew. It was just ‘How am I going to tell Nita?'”

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Nita Cagle rallies the crowd for her husband at Glenda’s in Cleveland, Georgia.

This career move was not always smooth as Cagle had to adapt to managing her time: “The boys were young. You’re divided because you want to be with them both, be a mom and be a wife.”

Ultimately,, through family discussions, Cagle decided that she would become a strong foundation for her family at home.

“You only get one time at it,” Cagle explained of the decision and the importance of having an active role in a child’s life. “You don’t get a do-over.”

This decision did pose obstacles for the Cagles to overcome as the now Lt. Governor was often called away for his job and for campaigns, but Cagle explained these obstacles are no different than what many families face: “Whether it’s politics, any job is going to put stress. No marriage is going to be without stress.”

Cagle explained that she has been blessed in that despite the calling of Casey’s career, he has always put his family first: “He’s a homebody, and if it is humanly possible to come home, he is coming home.”

With their children grown, Cagle said being on the campaign trail this time has a much different feel: “It absolutely was harder as they were younger. It got a lot easier as they got older. I’m really energized. I’m really enjoying it.”

Having grown children poses a set of new and exciting challenges when it comes to time management, as Cagle announced that their youngest son recently proposed to his girlfriend and would like to wed in the fall shortly before the November General Election.

This announcement did not slow Cagle down as she smiled and enthusiastically explained, “What better thing to do in the middle of all this craziness, than to shut it all down and to celebrate family, remember why we do it to start with, and welcome a new daughter-in-law into our family.”

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Casey Cagle takes time to boast on his wife Nita via social media.

Cagle added that having been in a house of men for so long, and with her two older sons already married she is excited for the wedding and glad that the male to female ratio is evening out.

With the prospect of becoming Georgia’s First Lady, Cagle has given a lot of time to her platform and her mission if given this duty: “I have several things that I have thought about, and I may or may not narrow down.”

Having obtained a degree and having a background in early childhood education, Cagle taught preschool for a number of years.

“I specifically love the preschool age,” Cagle smiled as she discussed one of her goals if given the title of First Lady of Georgia.

Cagle would like to see preschool education expanded and offered throughout Georgia. She cited the importance of teaching children at a young age and how this early nurturing can carry over throughout their life.

Knowing that not every child is able to receive this kind of early start at home, Cagle would like to see this program offered in more areas, stating that the work put into a child at an early age will benefit society for generations to come.

Cagle would also like to put a focus on small businesses throughout Georgia. She and husband Casey got their start by establishing a small business, so she knows first-hand the struggles that entrepreneurs face.

“I would like to champion them, and spotlight them,” Cagle said, explaining her passion for this area. She noted that small businesses make up a large portion of the Georgia economy, and she would like to see “mom and pop shops” continue to set up and succeed in our state.

Finally, Cagle discussed an issue that has come up time and time again on the campaign trail and that is of the opioid epidemic that is not just facing the state of Georgia but affecting countless families nationwide.

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Nita Cagle is all smiles as she introduces her husband Casey Cagle to the crowd gathered in Habersham County.

From speaking with residents in Georgia, Cagle is left with one strong impression when it comes to the opioid epidemic: “It’s everywhere. It does not discriminate. We hear the same story over and over. It’s repeated everywhere.”

While Cagle admits that she is by no means an expert when it comes to this crisis, she says that she cannot deny the need to address the issue and “get the conversation going.” She stated that by hearing the heartbreaking stories from families affected by opioid addiction she understands the depth of the problem and that it will not be an easy one to combat.

Being a multifaceted issue with a number of areas that need to be addressed, Cagle said, “If we are blessed enough to be elected, the platform is going to put me in a position to do good and open doors for the people that know about it.”

Cagle would like to increase awareness of the opioid epidemic and at least on one front open the doors for mentoring programs where families struggling with this issue can speak with former addicts on how to help loved ones.

Cagle also acknowledged the successes being seen through Georgia’s Drug Courts and would like to study the impacts of possibly expanding these programs.

Nita Cagle beams a confidence and sincerity in all that she speaks of, but perhaps her biggest conviction is in that of her husband’s ability to make a great governor of Georgia.

“The best way to know the kind of leader or character a person is going to have is to look into the home, and that is what I bring to the table,” Cagle stated, smiling at her husband. “I’ve been married to a man that is consistent every single day.”

She spoke of his competitive drive and his ability to connect with people but said he is also a fair man and one she is proud to have spent the last 32 years by his side.

Cagle’s birthday is May 23, just one day after the General Primary, and she stated this year she doesn’t want any gifts from her husband but instead, “I just want a good clean win on the 22nd with no run-off.”

“He says it’s mathematically virtually impossible,” Cagle said, explaining her husband’s response to her wish, but she then added with her contagious smile, “I have seen him do the impossible before.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

David Cooper feels he can reach across party lines and defeat Doug Collins

Election 2018, News, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – David Cooper will face off against Josh McCall for Georgia’s 9th congressional district seat Democratic nomination. The winner of the May General Primary will then run against Republican incumbent Congressman Doug Collins in the November General Election.

Collins has held the Georgia 9th Congressional District seat since 2013.

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David Cooper seeks Democratic nomination in May General Primary.

Cooper stopped by the Fannin County Democratic meeting to share with Fannin County residents why he feels that he is the best man for the job.

“I am soldier. I have served in the forces that have guarded this country and our way of life, and I am prepared to serve again,” Cooper introduced himself.

Holding a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration, Cooper has also had a career working various levels of government and is currently retired from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During his employment with the EPA, Cooper worked in hazardous waste clean up and also worked in commercializing green options, such as solar, wind, and geothermal.

Because of his background, Cooper feels that he can reach a wide audience: “I speak the language of patriotism and sacrifice. I speak the language of compassion and selfless service. I speak the language of public participation, cost effective regulation and legislation.”

“It is not about giving a speech. It’s not about making a list of here’s my issues, and wouldn’t it be cool if we could do these things. That is what every politician is taught to do,” Cooper said, explaining he wants to see real accomplishments.

“I am an unconventional candidate, and I will be running an unconventional campaign,” Cooper noted, adding that unlike his opponent, McCall, he would in fact seek to sway Republican voters. “I have the skills and experience to have those conversations.”

Cooper is convinced that there is no such thing as a single-issue voter and is confident that he can find common ground and common values among all residents of Georgia’s 9th District.

Cooper summarized his beliefs and his platform into three key elements, with the first being a need to “save democracy”. He feels this can be accomplished by stopping fake news, ensuring clean elections, and implementing term limits.

His second stance is to “protect what we hold dear.” Cooper cited a few areas that deserve our attention and care, with these being social security, medicare, women’s rights, the environment, veterans, and small businesses.

Cooper labeled his final stance as “progress for the future.” He would like to see steps made toward universal health care, common sense gun control, clean energy, fair taxes and affordable education.

“Not free education,” Cooper pointed out, “until we can get healthcare for everybody, don’t talk to me about free education.”

Locally, Cooper would like to work to support small businesses, citing that they are uniquely numerous in our area due to the tourism industry. He feels that one way to promote this would be to “energize the Small Business Administration to do more to support and provide more outreach.”

“That’s how we keep the Georgia 9th vibrant, keep these small businesses going,” Cooper added.

“Collins should not be making rules for anyone,” Cooper spoke of his Republican opponent. “His loyalties are not with the people.”

In the General Primary, Cooper said the focus should not be about himself running against McCall, but instead he advised the crowd, “You need to pick the person who can beat Doug Collins and who has a plan.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Josh McCall prepares to face Doug Collins in upcoming election

Election 2018, News, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Josh McCall hopes to receive the Democratic nomination in the race for Georgia’s 9th congressional district seat.

This seat is currently held by incumbent Congressman Doug Collins. Collins has been Georgia’s 9th District representative since 2013.

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Josh McCall seeks Democratic nomination in May General Primary.

McCall has been traveling the district during his campaign, and made a stop at the Fannin County Democratic meeting to discuss with residents why he should represent our district.

Tired of hearing negativity in politics and disagreeing with many of today’s political moves, McCall stated that it had gotten to the point where he dreaded looking at his phone to get the latest news.

“Inevitably, as though it is some kind of force of fate, I do open my phone because I do care about my country and I want to know what’s happening,” McCall added.

Criticizing the Republicans, McCall referred to the party’s Debt Clock: “because everything that goes into feeding the poor people, those Republicans are putting it on the clock.”

“They just passed a bill handing over the fortunes of our children that was supposed to go into green infrastructure and the educational facilities of tomorrow,” McCall spoke of the party’s hypocrisy, “and it went into the pockets of billionaires.”

McCall added, “Let me tell you the red letters of our (Democrats) debt clock. They are written in the blood of students who died at Parkland. They’re written in the blood of the children who died daily from gun violence in this nation, which is breaking out like an epidemic.”

According to McCall Republicans used to care about urgent matters such as the National Debt and what is being left to the nation’s children, but their concerns have since shifted.

McCall wants to see focus put on healthcare and the costs related to this field, stating, “Those are the threats that are really facing us. You deserve life and you deserve health.”

“It is my fundamental belief that nobody should die because they are poor, and that nobody should be poor because they are dying,” McCall reiterated his passion to see meaningful change.

On national matters, McCall would like to see corporations “put on check” for environmental damage, and for lobbyists and organizations to have less of a hold on our government, citing that NRA (National Rifle Association) money is what stops real change to gun control.

“We are in too many nations right,” McCall said stating that we should pull forces out and invest at home,”There is not a single nation with a possible exception of Korea, that is any better off than it was before we invaded it.”

McCall would like to form a Public Service Coalition to serve at home and focus on social needs. The Civil Conservation Corp. could provide services such as taking care of the elderly in their homes and aid in environmental protection and clean up in exchange for scholarships to colleges.

For a two year term, McCall suggests, participants could receive a two-year technical degree scholarship, and for a four-year term, participants could receive a scholarship for a four year Bachelor’s Degree.

McCall switched gears to speak of his stance on the Second Amendment, “I firmly believe in the Second Amendment. The problem is the NRA does not. They only believe in that second part that makes them money.”

Citing that no one is safe in any public space in today’s climate, McCall emphasized that there is need for a well regulated militia.

“If they are law abiding citizens of sound mind, I want them to have that bolt action rifle. Their hunting rifle,” McCall stated, but also explained that there needs to be meaningful change.

One simple solution that he felt could have a lasting impact would be to have a 10 bullet limit on magazines, and outlaw removable clips. Other solutions would be to have gun owners secure weapons in their homes to keep them away from children. McCall stated that Georgia was number one in the nation for toddlers to die of gun related deaths.

“I don’t believe in confiscation,” McCall made very clear if new reform were to pass.

Locally McCall would like to focus on infrastructure in the 9th District, and have improvements to infrastructure done by people trained in our area.
If McCall were to receive the Democratic nomination, he spoke of where he differs from his Republican opponent Doug Collins.

“I believe that Doug Collins is most vulnerable in his complacency,” McCall stated and added that this election year Collins cannot ignore the Democratic party.

“Compassion and cooperation are the center pieces of my campaign,” McCall said and then added, “That is where he is vulnerable, he has not a compassionate or cooperative bone in his body, and that is our strength.”

McCall concluded by saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper? My answer to that is a resounding yes. This race is truly not about me. I have faith in the people of the 9th District.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

NRA endorses David Shafer

Election 2018, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The National Rifle Association (NRA) continues to unveil their endorsements for the upcoming May General Primary, and the latest announcement revealed their pick for the next Georgia Lieutenant Governor, Senator David Shafer.

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Senator David Shafer of the Georgia State Senate.

Shafer currently serves as a State Senator of the Georgia State Senate, a position he has held since first being elected in 2002. Shafer also holds the title of President Pro Tempore. He has had this designation since 2013 when his fellow Senators unanimously elected him to this position.

Shafer received a letter from the Chairman of the NRA’s Political Victory Fund Chris Cox. In this letter Cox noted Shafer’s work in Georgia in regards to protecting Second Amendment rights: “Nearly every Second Amendment bill in the last 16 years has had your name attached to it.”

“David Shafer is a voice for freedom and faithful friend to Georgia’s law abiding gun owners,” Cox said explaining the decision made by the NRA, “This endorsement is a reflection of his unwavering support for the Second Amendment.”

Shafer received the Defender of Freedom award from the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action in 2013.

This award came after Shafer’s key role in passing Senate Bill 101 by an overwhelming majority in the Georgia Senate.

The bill essentially made what the NRA deemed as “several important changes to Georgia firearms laws”. Among these changes were increasing reciprocity for out-of-state concealed carry permit holders and preempting a ban on firearms in public housing giving residents the ability to defend themselves regardless of their economic stature.

Shafer has long held an A+ rating with the NRA Political Victory Fund and the NRA says of Shafer that he is “one of the nation’s strongest champions of the Second Amendment.”

“The framers of the Constitution intended for us to be able to defend ourselves,” Shafer said. “I am proud of my record fighting for the Second Amendment rights of every law abiding Georgian.”

The NRA’s endorsement is sure to pull some weight in the upcoming May General Primary. There are currently more than 100,000 active members of the NRA in the state of Georgia.

The May General Primary is scheduled to take place May 22, 2018. Voter registration deadline for this General Primary is April 23.

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Casey Cagle receives NRA endorsement

Election 2018, Featured, News, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The National Rifle Association (NRA) announces its pick for Georgia’s next Governor, and released that the association would officially be backing Casey Cagle. Not all Republican candidates are happy with the NRA’s decision.

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Casey Cagle receives NRA endorsement.

With more than 100,000 active members in the state of Georgia, the NRA’s endorsement is sure to pull some weight in the upcoming May General Primary.

Earning an A+ rating from the NRA for each year that he has served in office, this is not the first time that Cagle has been endorsed by the organization.

“Gun ownership is a right that Georgians take seriously, and the NRA endorsement is the gold standard in our state,” Cagle said explaining his enthusiasm for receiving this endorsement. “I’m an avid outdoorsman, and I taught all three of my boys how to hunt, shoot and respect firearms. That’s an American legacy that I want to see handed down to my grandchildren and to the generations that follow them.”

“I’m honored and excited to have the NRA’s support because its cause is one that I share and that I have fought for,” Cagle continued. “I’m a lifetime member of the NRA, and I’m proud of my unwavering record for the Second Amendment. Like the NRA, I believe the framers of the Constitution meant what they said when they wrote that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Having already received backing from Educators First and the Georgia Realtors, the NRA endorsement makes a third announcement of support for Cagle this week.

The NRA endorsement comes on the heels of Secretary of State of the U.S. State of Georgia and Republican Governor hopeful Brian Kemp sending an email to a top NRA lobbyist, Christopher Cox, concerning Cagle’s true allegiance to the organization.

In regards to Cagle’s stance on Delta Airlines and recent Georgia legislation passed, Kemp stated in the email, “The NRA is getting played.”

Kemp added, “As those of us involved in Georgia politics like to say…..you’ve been “Casey Cagled”.”

Brian Kemp shared his thoughts with FetchYourNews on the recent announcement from the NRA: “The 2nd Amendment is not a talking point to me. It’s a way of life. I shoot, hunt, and carry – because we have the right to protect ourselves and defend our families from harm. As governor, I won’t compromise or play games for political gain.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

County officials discuss the safety of our local schools

Community, GMFTO

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, returned to class today, Feb. 28, just two short weeks after one of America’s deadliest mass shootings in modern history took place in their halls.

In the wake of this tragedy, which claimed 17 lives, discussion have opened up about school safety and what can be done to prevent situations like this from occurring in the future.

Brian K. Pritchard (BKP), chief executive officer of FetchYourNews and host of Good Morning From The Office morning show, invited local officials from Gilmer and Fannin counties to address the safety of our local school systems.

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County officials from both Fannin and Gilmer counties met to discuss the safety of our schools.

In opening the discussion, BKP directly asked both Gilmer and Fannin County School superintendents how safe do they feel the schools in our area are.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney answered from a personal perspective: “My child is in a Fannin County school this morning.”

“We are always vigilant in watching what’s going on with our students, watching what’s going on on social media,” Gilmer County School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes said, explaining why she too felt the schools in her county were safe, “and staying in constant contact with our law enforcement.”

“What I feel has come out of Parkland (shooting) is a breakdown in the system,” BKP pointed out to the guest panel and questioned how officials have addressed any recent incidents.

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson replied that his department has had to respond to incidents almost daily for the past two weeks, but clarified that most complaints are not serious.

“The problem is law enforcement can no longer say that’s not serious. We have to take it serious,” Nicholson explained.

Modern times are different according to Nicholson and he stressed, “Pranks are no longer pranks. When it comes to school safety we will investigate and we will prosecute and arrest or send you to juvenile court.”

Many counties in Georgia do not have school resource officers (SRO) assigned to every school in their district. Fortunately, for both Fannin and Gilmer, this is not the case. All schools within each system has its own SRO, and all panel members feel that this is a major element in keeping our schools safe.

Georgia, Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Fannin County, Gilmer County, School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dr. Shanna Wilkes, Sheriff, Dane Kirby, Stacy Nicholson, School Resource Officer, SRO, Sergeant Greg Dodson, Lieutenant Darvin Couch, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Parkland, Florida, Shooting, School Safety, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Gilmer County SRO Sgt. Greg Dodson discussed SRO training and duties.

“Are all the SRO officers armed this morning?” BKP directly asked the panel. Both Nicholson and Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby replied that all officers on all campuses were armed.

Gilmer County School Resource Officer Sergeant Greg Dodson explained the duties of an SRO: “A very large part of the job is visual security. It’s patrolling the interior and exterior of the school, checking doors, making sure that they’re locked, trying to monitor who comes and goes.”

“If you see someone at the schools that you don’t recognize, make sure they have a visitor pass, that they’ve gone through the office properly,” Dodson added.

Other duties include checking parking lots, bathrooms, hallways, and interacting and developing relationships with the students.

In Gilmer County, to become an SRO, a deputy must submit a formal letter requesting that position. A panel of the officer’s peers then formally recommends who they feel should be placed in that position. Sheriff Nicholson makes a final decision based on the panel’s recommendations.

Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby confirmed that the process in Fannin County is very similar to Gilmer County and added, “That’s not a job (SRO) that you have just to draw a paycheck. That has to be something that the deputy wants to do.”

“From the very get go, it has to be what that person really wants to do,” Kirby said, explaining that the SROs in place are not only trained but also have a passion for that particular field.

Training for an SRO goes beyond that of a police academy. This training includes a School Resource Officer course, Crisis Intervention Training, Gun Safety, and in-service training such as active shooter scenarios.

Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee was present to discuss the legal aspects of threats against a school and what her department does in collaboration with law enforcement to combat any potential crimes.

“I just need one referral to start. I need one concerned student. I need one diligent parent. That’s what allows us to be able to initiate the investigation and to assess what we need to do next,” Sosebee described of the process of how her department can become involved.

Georgia, Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Fannin County, Gilmer County, School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dr. Shanna Wilkes, Sheriff, Dane Kirby, Stacy Nicholson, School Resource Officer, SRO, Sergeant Greg Dodson, Lieutenant Darvin Couch, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Parkland, Florida, Shooting, School Safety, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby and Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson address law enforcement’s role in providing safety for our schools.

Sosebee said we are fortunate to live in a smaller community where residents feel comfortable speaking up when there is an incident that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Confirming Sosebee’s thoughts on residents willing to tip off authorities, Gilmer County School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes said, “In my experience, when we’ve had a threat that we needed to investigate, I have not gotten it from one person. I get it from 50 people within about an hour.”

“No matter how good you are technologically, there is no substitution for a good tip,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney expressed in similar views.

Both Fannin and Gilmer County school systems continue to take steps to improve safety measures in their schools. Gwatney is looking into extra safety measures using technology. This would include a large network of monitoring devices.

Wilkes is working to renovate Gilmer High School. She would like to implement scan cards for access to doors and is working to restructure the building to create a single point of entry through the front office.

With large campuses and multiple buildings, BKP asked, “Would you look at letting teachers or putting that program into place at your schools to allow weapons in there and how would it work?”

Texas has legislation, School Marshal, to allow teachers to carry weapons on campus, and Florida recently passed similar legislation. Currently in Georgia, there is no statewide legislation on the issue, but rather Georgia allows local school districts to create their own policies regarding this matter.

Gilmer County has looked at sample legislation from other counties in the past, but never voted to enact a policy. Wilkes said that she would favor a policy that would require the individual to qualify with a firearm and that would obligate the individual to attend an annual firearm training course.

Wilkes also would like there to be anonymity in which teachers are armed within the school.

“It would have to be very regulated. It takes the right person, like it takes the right SRO,” Wilkes shared of her stance.

Gwatney was not opposed to the idea but does not want it to negatively affect an educator’s job: “The purpose of a teacher to care for the kids and teach for the kids. We don’t want to create a situation where we force the teacher to try to take on a law enforcement role.”

The panel also expressed frustrations on a system that sometimes works against them in their efforts to keep our children safe.

On a criminal level, Sheriff Nicholson expressed disappointment in a system that seems increasingly unwilling to keep a juvenile in detainment: “It’s getting harder and harder to get someone detained. That’s frustrating.”

Georgia, Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Fannin County, Gilmer County, School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dr. Shanna Wilkes, Sheriff, Dane Kirby, Stacy Nicholson, School Resource Officer, SRO, Sergeant Greg Dodson, Lieutenant Darvin Couch, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Parkland, Florida, Shooting, School Safety, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

BKP’s All Star Panel questions officials on a number of issues that the school systems face in regard to safety.

Sosebee confirmed Nicholson’s frustration and explained, “Part of that, the court system with relation to that, is the restrictions that are put on the court system as to when these juveniles can be detained and when they cannot be detained and that is where a lot of the hands tying is coming from, from the court system.”

Just like law enforcement, the school systems feel that there is legislation and policy in place that ties their hands when they witness “red flags”.

BKP pointed out the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has grown since it was first enacted and states that schools being a government agency must accommodate individuals with diagnosed disabilities.

Wilkes acknowledged that the ADA does play a heavy role in how schools can handle disciplinary situations: “In many cases, you’re dealing with students who have a disability such as an emotional behavioral disorder, which falls under special education.”

In such cases, if a student makes a threat or acts in a way that requires disciplinary action, the school must first have a Manifestation Hearing.

In a Manifestation Hearing, a panel is made up of a licensed school psychologist, the student’s special education case manager, a teacher that works directly with the student, an administrator, and the parents or guardians of the child.

The panel determines if the threat or infraction is directly related to the student’s disability. If it is deemed that it is in relation to the disability, then disciplinary action cannot be taken.

If it is deemed that the issue is not related to the child’s disability, then a tribunal is formed to determine what disciplinary actions should be taken.

“If a student has any disability at all,” Wilkes clarified, “even if it’s a learning disability in reading, and let’s say they try to burn down the school, then we have to have a manifestation hearing to see if that learning disability led to them trying to burn down the school.”

Due to this process and the strict rules surrounding juvenile privacy, Wilkes stated if it is related to a disability “our hands are tied as to what we can do.”

The panel agreed that collaboration between departments along with a proactive stance on safety is the best route to take when it comes to the welfare of our counties’ children but felt that changes could be made in legislation that would make providing our schools with this security a much more efficient process.

You can watch BKP’s Good Morning From The Office #AnythingGoes School Safety Special in the video below.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Several north Georgians receive no-cost-to-client flu shots

Press Release

DALTON, Ga. – Since health departments in north Georgia began providing flu shots at no cost to clients this week, 640 residents have taken advantage of the offer and others are urged to do the same while supplies last. This number contrasts favorably to the total of 190 flu shots provided by the health departments during the previous week.

Flu activity continues to be widespread in the U.S., and last week, the number of flu-related deaths in Georgia sharply increased, prompting public health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties to begin providing flu shots at no cost to residents who have not yet been vaccinated. Healthcare plans are billed for clients who have coverage, and there is no charge to anyone who is not insured. No appointment is necessary – “walk-ins” are welcome.

The current flu vaccine is highly effective against most influenza strains that are now circulating, and county health departments in north Georgia also have a high-dose flu vaccine for people ages 65 and older, providing them with increased protection.

It is not too late to get a flu shot. This flu season has not yet peaked, and it could last several more weeks. Once vaccinated, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to reach its full protective potential. Therefore, it is important to receive a flu shot right away.

Locations and phone numbers for the no-cost-to-client flu shots at county health departments in
north Georgia are:

  • Cherokee County Health Department: 1219 Univeter Road, Canton, GA 30115, 770-345-7371
    and 7545 North Main Street, Suite 100, Woodstock, GA 30188, 770-928-0133;
  • Fannin County Health Department: 95 Ouida Street, Blue Ridge, GA 30513, 706-632-3023;
  • Gilmer County Health Department: 28 Southside Church Street, Ellijay, GA 30540, 706-635-4363;
  • Murray County Health Department: 709 Old Dalton-Ellijay Road, Chatsworth, GA 30705, 706-695-4585;
  • Pickens County Health Department: 60 Health Way, Jasper, GA 30143, 706-253-2821; and
  • Whitfield County Health Department: 800 Professional Boulevard, Dalton, GA 30720, 706-226-
    2621.

Health officials also remind the public that flu is extremely contagious and can spread easily from person to person; therefore, anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms – such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue or nausea – is urged to stay home during the severest symptoms and for at least 24 hours after fever is gone. Parents should keep children who are sick with the flu at home from school, and anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms should stay away from places such as hospitals and long-term care facilities where people are more at risk for developing severe complications if sick with the flu.

More information about preventing the spread of flu, such as frequent handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes, is on the North Georgia Health District website at http://nghd.org/pr/34-/938-widespread-flu-in-georgia.html.

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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