Honoring Officer Brett Dickey

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Today marks 22 years since the passing of Deputy Brett C. Dickey, killed in the line of duty with the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office.

Today also saw Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office remember this officer by laying a wreath at his monument. A now annual memento of service in the county, Nicholson said he would continue the memorial service as long as he remains sheriff of Gilmer County as Dickey was “very deserving of being honored.”

The sheriff’s office also posted a note to social media saying:

Today we honor his memory as Sheriff Nicholson and the GCSO Honor Guard place this wreath at his monument and fly the flag at half staff at the Gilmer County Courthouse. The monument dedicated to him reads “Through the hearts and lives he touched and his fellow officers, this HERO lives on.”

Nicholson called his death a devastating loss to his family, to the sheriff’s office, and to the community. “He was not just any old police officer, he was a true public servant, and he was good guy,” Nicholson said.

Service like this is not something entered into lightly. Officers know of the risks involved in the job. Many claim a “calling” to the position. It may be a need to help others or perhaps an obligation knowing that the job has to have someone. It is always a loss to a community when tragedy strikes. However, memorials like this become a drive for those who remain. A loss can be motivation, a loss can lead to strength. A loss can be so much more than just pain.

Citizens can visit the courthouse to see the wreath for Dickey and honor him next to the main entrance at the foot of the flagpole.

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Bus wreck on Yukon injures students

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A Gilmer school bus is overturned on Yukon Road blocking both lanes of traffic.

A Gilmer school bus is overturned on Yukon Road blocking both lanes of traffic.

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A Gilmer County Charter School System bus has crashed roughly three miles out of town on Yukon Road.

The road is currently shut down and drivers need to find alternative routes as they attempt to travel. The bus was not involved with another vehicle. According to Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes, the bus overturned on the wet, rainy road resulting in minor injuries to children on board.

She did confirm the only students on board were from Clear Creek Middle School. With only minor, non-life-threatening, injuries, emergency services are transporting seven students to the emergency department in Ellijay and eight are being transported to the emergency room in Jasper. However, the other students on board were uninjured or only received scrapes or bruises and, having been checked by emergency response units, are being transported back to Clear Creek Middle School for parent pick-up.

Uninjured students from the bus crash are returned to Clear Creek Middle School for parent pick-up.

Uninjured students from the bus crash are returned to Clear Creek Middle School for parent pick-up.

According to the Gilmer County Charter School System, they are working to notify parents and are not releasing names of the students injured.

Witnesses on scene are reporting officers from Gilmer Fire, Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia State Patrol are still working on the vehicle which is blocking both lanes of the road.

While emergency services are on scene, there is no set time expected for re-opening the road. Stay with FetchYourNews (FYN) as we continue to follow updates from authorities.

 

 

UPDATE: According to Dr. Shanna Wilkes, the accident coupled with response from parents to the schools delayed bus routes today, causing many students to arrive home far later than usual. With State Patrol undertaking a formal investigation into the incident, the use of this bus would demand a halt whether it is operational or not as authorities’ investigation will entail a full inspection in addition to questioning and investigating those involved.

While it is FYN’s understanding that the bus overturned after an over-correction by the driver, possibly trying to return to the road from the shoulder, it has not been confirmed by officials.

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Update on school threat

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – As the incident of the school threat continues in Gilmer, FetchYourNews (FYN) sat down with Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes to discuss the incident.

Wilkes told FYN the school system would not be identifying any of the students or current details about the case. However, Wilkes did take time to share with FYN the incident basically occurred when a student, student one, took a photo of himself with what appears to be a gun. Student one then shared the photo with a peer, student two, who shared it with another peer, student three.

Wilkes tells FYN this student, student three, was the one who added text to the photo representing a possible threat and shared it through social media with others. While administration assumes the photo was originally taken prior to this school year, it was not shared until this weekend.

Additionally, student one, who took the photo without any text, was not arrested or disciplined and is currently still in class. As student three admitted to adding the text and sending it to multiple individuals, he faces school-level disciplinary action as well as charges filed against him by law enforcement.

Wilkes has previously stated that the school treats all threats seriously and continues to assert the importance of student safety to school and system administration.

Follow more on this story as FYN continues to update you and by reading our previous article, “Threat resolved at Gilmer High School.”

 

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Deputy sheriff arrested in Gilmer

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Deputy McClure Arrested
Gilmer County Sheriff's Sgt. Greg McClure

Gilmer County Sheriff’s Sgt. Greg McClure

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Sgt. Greg McClure, a Gilmer County deputy sheriff, was arrested on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, by agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and Gilmer Sheriff’s deputies.

According to a public release by Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, the investigation and subsequent arrest stems from a report of rape forwarded to the sheriff on Dec. 27, 2017. Upon learning of the report, Nicholson contacted the GBI and requested that they conduct the investigation.

Sheriff Nicholson stated that the allegations against McClure are all “off duty” in nature, meaning McClure was not on duty at the time the alleged events occurred.

McClure was booked and processed at the Gilmer County Jail on Jan. 5, 2018, and then transferred to another jail to be housed. At this time, McClure is being held without bond. Charges are aggravated sodomy (two counts), aggravated assault, and interference with government property.

For more, check out the booking report below and stay with FYN as we continue to update this story.

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Threat resolved at Gilmer High School

Gilmer High School, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Rumors continue circulating this morning about messages students have been receiving on SnapChat. Allegedly, a child has threatened the school and others inside it.

According to Gilmer County Charter School System Administration, the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office became involved during the night and have identified the suspect. As administration has continued working with the sheriff, they stated on social media, “The safety of our students and staff is always our main priority. All appropriate action will be taken to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”

Today, administration stated progress had been made and the Sheriff’s Office had made an arrest in the case stating, “At this time, there is no credible risk to students and staff of Gilmer High School.”

However, claiming laws for student confidentiality, administration is declining to comment further on the student involved or more information on the incident.

In light of the continued rumors about the credibility of the threat, administration did offer this: “It is imperative for students and everyone to know that credible or not, threats of this type against our schools cannot be tolerated or accepted.”

Repeated comments from citizens and students claim the threat came as a picture on SnapChat of a student holding a gun and saying not to come to school Monday.

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Snow in Gilmer could cause further issues with refreezing

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Authorities continue to monitor and patrol the area, but citizens are even beginning to venture back out into town today.

While officials have reported the main roads to be clearing, others are still fighting the slush and ice that is following the melt seen across the county today. The Sheriff’s office is still encouraging those traveling on the roads today to “use common sense and take extra time that may be needed if you drive today.”

Additionally, as the sun sets tonight, the dangers will return according to the Sheriff’s office: “The temperatures are expected to drop into the teens tonight, so be cautious of black ice that may form as a result of any moisture remaining on any roadways.”

While the snow is melting, citizens and county and city workers are proceeding with clean up and repairs from last night. People are finding situations like this photo on Holden Road showing a tree across the power lines. Many citizens still do not have power. One report from the Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) early this morning reported Gilmer County alone is seeing 4,695 members without power.

Crews are out working on these issues as quickly as possible in the current conditions.

Other reports are coming in as to how people prepared for the snowfall. One report from the Volunteers Helping the Gilmer County Animal Shelter said the shelter’s director took matters upon himself saying, “Well, we have a wonderful director, who spent the night and will be taking care of the shelter today.”

Others are venturing into town for warmer places and taking the day to enjoy the winter weather amidst the issues.

Make sure to stay with FYN as we continue to monitor for updates and changes to the storm. Officials are suggesting that citizens once again avoid the roads tonight due to the possibility of black ice.

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Missing person in Gilmer

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ELLIJAY, Ga – Reports from family have confirmed a man missing from Gilmer County.

Jerry Mead

Jerry Mead

Missing since Tuesday, Jerry Mead was on the way to work in Canton when he went missing. The family reports no one has been in contact with him since.

Mead is 40 years old, stands 6 feet 3 inches and weighs roughly 220 pounds. He has dark brown hair and hazel eyes.

He was last seen driving a white 2015 Toyota Corolla with tag TKQ229.

According to the family, Mead had a stroke two years ago but has not had any problems since then.

Unfortunately, when he went missing, his wife’s dialysis supplies were in the car as well. There has been a missing person report filed, and the family is encouraging anyone with information to contact the Sheriff’s office at 706-635-4162 or the family at 706-276-3115 or 706-889-9164.

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Addressing disconnects following Light Up Ellijay

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Crowds flood Downtown Ellijay for Light Up event

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The downtown area of Ellijay was rocked by an historic crowd for its Light Up Ellijay festivities, which echoed throughout the county.

Citizens have responded in various ways and have voiced opinions as to the success or detriment of the Return to Whoville themed event. However, they are not the only ones responding to what some merchants called “Who-mageddon,” a jovial moniker made possible by a lack of major incidents during the event. Indeed, with additional responses from not just Ellijay’s police force, but county fire and rescue personnel as well, the event had only one reported incident, which involved a missing child. According to officials, the child was found within 15 minutes of searching.

This was an outcome Ellijay City Police Chief Edward Lacey said the town was very lucky to have accomplished. While acknowledging the unanticipated crowd, Lacey said his officers performed “admirably,” going so far as to say they gave “150 percent.” Lacey also confirmed with FYN that despite their efforts, the event would have been a lot worse had they not received backup from firefighters helping out with crowd control.

According to the permit issued by the city of Ellijay to the Downtown Ellijay Business and Community Association (DEBACA), the organization expected a maximum of 5,000 people at the event. While no one could confirm details, reports have varied as to the cause of the dramatic increase.

From a few viral videos to a radio station picking up the story in Florida, rumors continue to swirl with no real specific answers. However, DEBACA reported they noticed over 70,000 clicks for Light Up Ellijay in the week leading to the event. After the night was done, license plates were seen from over nine states, according to officials on scene.

Ellijay Mayor Al Hoyle declined to comment about the meetings and processes involved since Light Up Ellijay, but he did speak about the people who attended saying, “That paints a very positive picture of Ellijay. The name ‘Ellijay’ is known, obviously, and it drew that big of a crowd, and that’s great.” He went on to comment that with the quality, he sees future events growing as well.

People already began spilling into the street as earlier as 4:30 p.m. an hour before the tree lighting.

People already began spilling into the street as earlier as 4:30 p.m. an hour before the tree lighting.

Speaking with DEBACA Chairman Steve Cortes, he echoed the sentiment that attracting the crowd was a success on its own. This is the first time the association has hosted the event after transferring the event from the Downtown Development Authority.

Stepping beyond the event itself to identifying the effects a week later, Lacey stated about back-up received, “I think it showed that we were able to admit that we were overwhelmed … A lot of times, agencies that are not willing to ask for help are the ones that get in a lot of trouble … We were able to admit that we needed help and actually request it.”

In fact, not only did the Ellijay Police receive help during the event but also invited members from the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office, Gilmer Fire and Rescue, the Gilmer Chamber, DEBACA, East Ellijay Police, Ellijay Fire, and others to an after action meeting that is usually only held with Public Safety. Lasting more than three hours, the meeting saw members from each entity delving into the event separating out things that did happen versus things that should have happened during the event. Specifying the disconnection between those two ideas led to discussion and thoughts on future events.

A few specific issues came to light in the meeting regarding logistics for things like the addition of vendors for the event, the opening of bathrooms for the event and parking and traffic due to the crowd. Chief Lacey told FYN that the meeting and input from all involved will be considered as he creates his report and in moving towards future events.

Cortes also commented with FYN saying another issue with the crowd comes with future events. Not knowing if they should prepare for a similar crowd to this year or preparing for something lower is part of the stresses of planning. Cortes suggested they would be looking at the upcoming events throughout the year, such as St. PETrick’s Day and Independence Day, to gauge the response they might see at Light Up Ellijay.

One of the bigger points in the meeting  addressed a lack of communication and response from parties involved. Addressing understandings of the permit process and amending it paired with controlling and coordinating the multiple entities became a larger focus. Suggestions on dealing with these issues led towards future events seeing use of Instant Command Structures (ICS) and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

EOC is a fusion center of resources that officials say are used to manage and communicate across the different entities of public safety. Fully activated EOC’s could also include members from all sorts of other entities; in Ellijay, this could include mayors, council members, DEBACA members, or more. As explained in the meeting, this would allow instant access to cross-force resources.

The EOC concept also answered issues with traffic. A crowd of the size seen downtown not only gridlocked traffic after 5 p.m., but also clogged emergency access through the area. One hypothetical example of the EOC given at the meeting suggested an issue arising on Hwy. 282. The EOC could coordinate a nearby sheriff’s deputy to the location faster than any other. A more immediate response from a sheriff’s deputy in the area means far lower response times in the face of gridlocked traffic for citizens.

Somebody tracking and directing all requests would streamline services and resources in that instance to better control and guide arising issues, whether they be safety-focused or logistically focused through those involved.

In addition to the EOC, pre-made ICS would be available to handle situations where pre-planned events escalate to any sort of emergency, for example if a driver had grown so frustrated with the crowd that he or she ran people down.

Crowd size sends one child up the clock downtown in an attempt to see the nights events.

Crowd size sends one child up the clock downtown in an attempt to see the nights events.

While this may seem extreme, Lacey told FYN  these are the issues that police deal with everyday. They must prepare for the potential issues that could grow out of events with crowds like we witnessed this year. An approach that imitates an old saying, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” is one that the city police face daily in protecting and preparing for situations despite a common thought that such instances would not happen in our town.

In fact, part of Lacey’s research into parades garnered 56 total headlines in newspapers, with 55 of those occurring since July 2001, involving parade incidents and injuries. Crowds like the one at this year’s Light Up Ellijay further intensify the possibility of incidents.

While the entire week was spent identifying issues and areas for improvement, Chief Lacey declined to comment further on the entities involved saying, “It’s enough to say that there was a disconnect, and that we’re going to fix that.”

Cortes echoed approval of the cooperation and coordination found through the meetings held in the week after the event. Noting an increase in involvement as DEBACA continues to grow, Cortes tells FYN that he would love to see representatives from the Chamber, the cities and police forces at their meetings and events. He went on to comment on the meeting saying it answered questions: “What can we do if a big event comes to Ellijay? How can we handle that?” He went on to say, “There’s no finger pointing, everybody knows that a lot could have been done better, and a lot needs to be done if we’re going to work together in the future.”

Though Light Up Ellijay is firmly in the city’s rear view, progress and meetings continue as the response and preparation for next year continue. Continuing in growth and popularity, citizens and officials alike will be closely watching downtown over the coming year in anticipation of another night like Nov. 24.

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