Gilmer Sheriff searching for Padgett after fleeing on Penland

News
Judicial Emergency, Padgett

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Highway 52 and Boardtown Road in Ellijay, Georgia, saw a lot of activity from deputies yesterday as the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) began searching for Jason Padgett.

Jason Padgett

Jason Padgett

According to the Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to Hilltop Apartments in reference to a report of someone, identified as Jason Padgett, making threats of harm to himself or possibly cause law enforcement to harm him during response.

Some information is still unclear as to the full extent of the report, however, the Sheriff’s Office spread their activity and search across areas surrounding Penland Street, Cox Creek, and Boardtown Road on Monday afternoon.

The public statement from GCSO said that reports came that Padgett was ‘possibly’ armed as deputies responded, but as soon as deputies arrived, he fled into the woods. According to the statement, “GCSO, along with EMA personnel, utilized a K-9 and other methods to search while setting up a perimeter. Padgett was not located, but based on the nature of the call, we do NOT feel he poses a threat to the general public.”

Thought he has misdemeanor warrants, the Sheriff’s Office said that the main purpose for the search was the report of him wanting to harm himself.

At this time, they are continuing to search, but GCSO is asking citizens to please call 911 if you know anything about Padgett or his location.

A helping-hand gets sanitized amid health concerns

Community
sanitizer

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Many have taken time in the recent weeks to say a special thank you to law-enforcement and emergency workers who are still at risk and cannot always maintain a “social distance” during their work.

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the Ellijay Police Department.

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the Ellijay Police Department.

This week saw another highlight in the community as two business owners stepped up to not only say thank you to those in service, but to provide a real need for them.

Laura Thomas is the owner and founder of Green Willow Soap in Ellijay. Her and her staff have been working hard this week to provide hand sanitizer to the public safety agencies in Gilmer. In fact, Gilmer Fire & Rescue, Ellijay Police, Ellijay Fire, East Ellijay Police, and the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office have all received hand sanitizer for their agents.

Thomas said, “All of the First Responders have received hand sanitizer to help them through their difficult jobs. GOD Bless them and protect them as they serve the people of Gilmer County.”

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the East Ellijay Police Department.

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the East Ellijay Police Department.

Heads of these agencies told FYN that the donation has answered a need as they have had difficulties purchasing and providing enough sanitizer during shortages. Creating and supplying the donation, Thomas said “My ladies have been working so hard to make this happen for our community.”

Gilmer County Fire & Rescue has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our private citizens, as well as our local business leaders.  On Wednesday 4/1/2020 Green Willow Soap generously donated around 100 bottles of individual hand sanitizers for each of our fire and rescue crew members.  This donation of hand sanitizer will greatly assist with our mission of keeping our hands clean when soap and water may not be readily available at the conclusion of a 911 call.  We greatly appreciate them thinking of us during a time when anti-bacterial supplies are in short demand and hard to obtain.”

Danny Postell and Huff's Drugs donate hand sanitizer to the Gilmer Sheriff's Office.

Danny Postell and Huff’s Drugs donate hand sanitizer to the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office.

But Green Willow Soap is not the only business answering this need. Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said that earlier this month, around March 20, Danny Postell and Huff’s Drugs donated handmade hand sanitizer as well.

Sheriff Nicholson stated, “These generous donations of hand sanitizer have been huge in respect to our deputies’ safety.   We have had a hard time buying it because of the high demand.  But Huffs and Green Willow came through not only with the “product” but provided it in a manner that we could give individual bottles to deputies to keep with them.  The donation from both was very much appreciated.”

Kauffman noted another donation for Gilmer Fire & Rescue saying, “We would also like to thank The Majestic Bee Bakery for dropping off boxes of individually wrapped cookies.  While it is a small gesture of kindness, the smiles from the crews are huge and show how much they appreciate these care packages.”

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the Gilmer Fire Rescue.

Laura Thomas and Green Willow Soap donate hand sanitizer to the Gilmer Fire & Rescue.

In addition to local businesses donating, Kauffman said they have had private citizens show their support in many ways.  Some of the items that have been donated to Gilmer County Fire Rescue include; N-95 face masks, surgical face masks, homemade face mask, gift cards, and baked goods.  Nicholson also pointed to several donations, the Sheriff’s office have added thank you notes to their social media for donations from Pizza King and Mindy K’s Bakery.

Gilmer’s public safety professionals have said they are very appreciative of our local citizens and businesses thinking of them and supporting them during this crisis.

Gilmer Officials delve deeper into the shutdown

News
Second Amendment, Officials

ELLIJAY, GA. – Yesterday’s Declaration of Emergency from the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners and the response from officials has been hotly debated and concerns are still high over what it means for Gilmer County.

Today, Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson and Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris are speaking out to explain a little more on the shutdown and what the next steps are for citizens and businesses in the county.

Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said this does not mean Gilmer is becoming a “police state.” While he said most of the shutdown is focused on businesses, he did add that the focus is to slow large interactions of people to slow the spread of the virus. He reiterated this again stressing that people can go out if the have to saying, “You can go to the grocery store. You can still go to the gas station and get gas. If you work for or own a business that is deemed essential, you can still go to work.”

Focusing instead on strongly encouraging people to follow suit with the Shelter-In-Place order, this entire effort is to promote the issue of awareness and support for isolation to kill the virus.

Nicholson also noted that the order for businesses is being enforced through the Officials of the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) as they continue spreading the information. Nicholson spoke about the county taking a stance of asking for compliance right now to encourage businesses and citizens to comply. Only in extreme circumstances, he said, would they resort to anything like citations or licensing revocations.

This was also noted in the meeting as the Board said they could eventually reach a level of revoking business licenses for all businesses not following the order’s closures or restrictions on those still open.

The last major point he stressed today was to say that this isn’t like snow days. It hasn’t taken a full hold yet. But it very well could. Nicholson said he does not intend to operate as an occupying force. Instead he wants the Sheriff’s Office to run like a county police force and support the community in these hard times.

It was a sentiment echoed by Chairman Charlie Paris who said the reason he felt the need for the Declaration of Emergency and the order to Shelter-In-Place is to separate the people as much as possible. The order is in place for two weeks to “not necessarily break the cycle of infection, but slow it down.”

Paris also acknowledge that the order is a drastic measure and not something he really wanted to do. However, the need for action was clear. This was also pointed out in the meeting when public safety authorities spoke saying that they understand no one wants to be the person to incorporate such measures, but serious action has to be taken to address the issue.

Paris also noted that hospitals, EMA Officials, and medical teams in Gilmer are considering all possible answers to the health needs. Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp has already instituted allowances for specific people with previous medical licenses and some recent graduates to practice medicine during this time as well as some Certificate of Need restrictions. Locally, these steps include talks about using rooms from Gilmer’s old hospital facility and possibly bedding patients there should a need arise.

Paris said that this is a hard time, but called it a time of sacrifice for the county in an effort to slow this infection down to get a handle on it. He also said that the neighboring counties need to join the effort to really make the shutdown effective and expedite a return to normal life much faster.

Sheriff Stacy Nicholson announces for re-election

Election
Stacy Nicholson

Sheriff Stacy Nicholson announces he will seek re-election this year.

Sheriff Nicholson and his wife, Stacie, live in the City of Ellijay. They are both members and regularly attend Friendship #3 Baptist Church in McCaysville.

The Sheriff is 48 years old and will begin his 30th year of law enforcement with Gilmer Sheriff’s Office in March of 2020. He was first elected as Sheriff in 2004.

Sheriff Nicholson states, “I have devoted my entire adult life to serving and protecting the citizens of Gilmer County. I have never had the desire to pursue ANY job opportunity, professional or financial, that would take me away from serving the community in which I live. Instead, I developed the desire and vision of molding and leading this Sheriff’s Office to an agency that is second to none. In that, I have a lot of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ invested. We’re not perfect by any means, but we strive daily to provide Gilmer County citizens with the best Sheriff’s Office they can ask for. I have an excellent group of deputies and staff that have bought into my vision, and they work hard every day for us.”

On day one as Sheriff, Nicholson began working on building strong relationships with the police chiefs of Ellijay and East Ellijay. The Sheriff states, “Our agencies are small, respectively speaking. We all sometimes need each other for assistance. Cooperation starts at the top. If the Sheriff and Chiefs get along and are on the ‘same page,’ then the troops out there doing the job will typically.” Sixteen years later, the working relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and Police Departments is strong.

In highlighting just a few of the agency’s accomplishments under Sheriff Nicholson, the Sheriff’s Office received its State Certification in 2008, becoming only the 12th Sheriff’s Office in Georgia to achieve this “voluntary” distinction. The Sheriff’s Office is in its ninth year of offering a “totally transparent” view of their operation through their Citizens’ Law Enforcement Academy program. The Office has a strong in-house training unit, as well as outside the agency training opportunities, focusing heavily on active shooter response and crisis intervention training. Lastly, the Sheriff’s Office has just begun offering active shooter response for citizens, specifically focusing on churches.

In highlighting some recent professional recognition and accomplishments, Sheriff Nicholson was elected by the Sheriffs of the State of Georgia to serve as President of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association for 2018-2019. Prior to that, he served for six years as Regional Vice President of the Association. Most recently, he has been appointed as a District Director for the Constitutional Officers’ Association of Georgia, representing a 14-county area of Clerk of Superior Courts, Probate Judges, Tax Commissioners and Sheriffs. Sheriff Nicholson states, “It is a huge honor to be respected by my elected peers to represent them in our Associations second ONLY to the honor of being able to serve the citizens of Gilmer County as YOUR Sheriff.

Sheriff Nicholson concludes, “today’s law enforcement is ever changing, under scrutiny and sometimes even under attack. Leading a Sheriff’s Office is not for the ‘faint of heart.’ It is a fast-paced, stressful job with a lot of moving parts with 100-plus employees. I assure you that I am physically, mentally, and health consciously ready to lead this team that I have assembled for whatever comes our way.”

The record of the Sheriff’s Office, under MY watch, I think speaks for itself. Our goal is to address serious crime in a manner that might be a deterrent, using proactive versus reactive policing methods; but at the same time maintaining our small town approach to interactions with our good citizens, both young and old.

I would be honored to be YOUR Sheriff for the next four years and I humbly ask for your vote on May 19th.

Will Gilmer become a Second Amendment Sanctuary?

News
Second Amendment Sanctuary

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Debate has risen among some in the county after the Gilmer Board of Commissioners published the agenda for their February meetings as people are noticing an agenda item to discuss becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary.

The official discussion with the BOC will occur during their work session this Wednesday, February 12. 2020, at 9:00 a.m and continue during the Regular Meeting with a final vote on Thursday, February 13, 2020, at 6:00 p.m.

Gilmer County's Board of Commissioners at a previous meeting. From left to right, City Clerk Edwina Daman, Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker, Chairman Charlie Paris, Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, and County Attorney David Clark.

Gilmer County’s Board of Commissioners at a previous meeting. From left to right, City Clerk Edwina Daman, Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker, Chairman Charlie Paris, Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, and County Attorney David Clark.

The item, listed as “Discussion and possible action of Gilmer County becoming a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary,” would declare Gilmer County as an official protection for the second amendment. It would be public statement against the Federal Government that if they should ever pass a law we consider to hinder or damage the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

One of the people leading this charge, Jason Williamson, spoke with FYN about the Resolution. He said he has seen many other counties passing similar resolutions. Williamson said he and another submitted the resolution alongside petitions to show the communities desire for support. Williamson said the petitions are key in showing “a presence of support.” While he hasn’t completed the petitions and doesn’t know exactly how many supporters have signed so far, he will be turning these petitions in as part of preparation for Wednesday.

With the meeting only days away, the Gilmer Sheriff, Stacy Nicholson, has also shown support for the resolution. Williamson said he is glad to have his support saying he felt confident going into the meeting.

Williamson said, “I am very big on the Second Amendment. I realized, and most people do, that the Second Amendment is the only protection we have from tyranny. When I started seeing what the state leadership of Virginia was doing, and hearing some of the other things from friends of mine that live there, we, the people, need to speak out.”

He went on to say that while Georgia hasn’t officially passed anything that he sees directly threatening yet, this is a message to other counties and other states that we support this and to also push the point to expose our leadership’s views on the subject in Georgia and in our counties.

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson

Part of that leadership, Sheriff Nicholson told FYN that he was fully in support saying, “I support, wholeheartedly, these resolutions being passed by counties in Georgia… I think it sends a good message to our legislatures in Washington and to those in Atlanta.”

Nicholson offered that while he hasn’t read the specific resolution being put forward in Gilmer, yet, he is very pro second amendment.

FYN questioned exactly what kind of power or pushback this resolution would legally give in the event of State Legislation. To which, Nicholson replied, “I think it’s more about sending a message to the entire nation where we stand on protecting our citizens’ constitutional rights.”

It was a sentiment separately repeated by Williamson who agreed the resolution was a preemptive move to put Gilmer in the position of being proactive rather than reactive to any such legislation.

Additionally, he went on to say the topic also “to make sure that our Sheriffs understand that they’ve got our support just as much we ask for their support as they are the supreme authority as the constable of the county.”

Williamson said he wants everyone who can attend to show support for the resolution to be present at this weeks meetings. Some have already offered counter points to the resolution saying that as a sanctuary nation by right due to the second amendment being a part of the constitution. Williamson said he has had some calling the resolution a “waste of time” because of this. But his response comes as he points to both the state and federal governments offering “interpretations” of the law and constitution. He said that much has been degraded through these people constantly picking apart these amendments to “what they think is reasonable.”

Instead, Williamson said, “I think this is just, hopefully, going to put that debate to bed.”

FROM THE DESK OF THE SHERIFF – Crime Suppression Unit

News, Police & Government

FROM THE DESK OF THE SHERIFF

On June 1, 2019 the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office created a new unit for the purpose of proactive
crime suppression with an emphasis on violent felons, drug activity, and high priority warrants.
The Crime Suppression Unit (CSU) targets specific areas of the county where statistics and citizen
complaints show a higher level of criminal activity. This unit was created to support the Uniform
Patrol Division while they answer calls for service from the community.

The creation of this unit has benefited the community greatly in its efforts to proactively target
Gilmer County’s worst offenders. The Crime Suppression Unit, in conjunction with the Criminal
Investigations Division and the Uniform Patrol Division, has worked together to solve many cases.
I am pleased to offer the following stats generated by the Crime Suppression Unit over the past
seven months: CSU has seized five pounds of meth on combined cases and has given information
to other jurisdictions that resulted in an additional nine pounds of meth being seized. They have
seized $11,000 in currency, recovered three stolen vehicles, seized 35 weapons and made and/or
assisted in 58 arrests, most of which were felony offenders.

I would like to encourage the community to contact the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office Criminal
Investigations Division to report any activity in their area they feel is suspicious. To speak with a
CSU member call 706-635-4646 or dial 911 if you have an emergency.

Diamond theft suspects arrested

News
Diamond Theft

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Reports have been confirmed at this time that two suspects have been apprehended in the investigation into Wednesday night’s, December 4, 2019, break-in and theft at North Georgia Diamond in East Ellijay, Georgia.

Tyreke Marquise McCloud

Tyreke Marquise McCloud

Kimmone Alexander Stewart

Kimmone Alexander Stewart

Kimmone Alexander Stewart, 22, of Orlando, Florida,  and Tyreke Marquise McCloud, 21, also of Orlando, Florida, were apprehended on December 5, 2019, just before 9 p.m. in Turner County in South Georgia.

According to a statement from Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, the Sheriff’s Department responded to a request from East Ellijay Police Chief Larry Callahan to assist in the investigation of the theft. However, due to the extensiveness of the crime scene and the dollar amount in merchandise stolen, the Sheriff’s Office requested additional aid from the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation).

Nicholson went on to say that through the investigation, authorities were able to recover video footage of two African-American males entered the building by breaking through the front glass. They were also able to determine the suspects were driving a Dodge Charger. With this information, Nicholson said the Sheriff’s Office put out regional requests for “like crimes in other jurisdictions.”

With more evidence still being processed and analyzed, information came in today from the Turner County Sheriff’s Office who had arrested two African American males driving a Dodge Charger and matching the description of the suspects involved in the diamond theft.

Diamond TheftNicholson recounted that Turner County Deputies had attempted a traffic stop of the Charger, but the vehicle fled police. The chase ultimately resulted in the Charger crashing and the two suspects being apprehended by deputies. However, Nicholson said the deputies also found a large amount of jewelry in the vehicle during their processing of the scene. Turner County began reaching out for information on related crimes.

Currently, Sheriff Nicholson said they are processing more evidence tying these two to the North Georgia Diamond theft and break-in, and through further cooperation with Gilmer County Detectives, looking at the evidence in Turner County, detectives were able to connect these two men to the crime. However, the Sheriff’s Office is only releasing this preceding information at this time. He said they will be charging the two with one count of burglary each and are pursuing warrants drafted to bring the suspects back to Gilmer County to stand trial for the theft after Turner County finishes with its traffic charges for the two suspects.

Nicholson went on to say, “Although there was a lot of good police work that went in to the initial investigation of this case. It always helps to have a little luck on your side when you’re investigating a burglary. I personally give a lot of credit to the Turner County Sheriff’s Office for helping us solve this crime.”

Diamond TheftBill and Alison Craig, owners of North Georgia Diamond, were unable to be reached for comment directly. However, official statements from North Georgia Diamond said,”Thank you to Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, Captain Brian Shepard and his Investigation Team, GCSO, East Ellijay Police Chief Larry Callahan, Shane Bowman, Tommy Long, The GBI, and all the other members of their departments. We also wish to thank the Turner County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance. We would also like to thank the team from DC Glass for putting our showcases back together in record time. Our wonderful community reached out in so many ways with prayer and offers to help and it worked. This is amazing news and well, We are having a DOOR BUSTER SALE with half off gold and diamond jewelry til close today and another special sale tomorrow. We are beyond excited about this development.”

In a surprise turn, information of the suspects apprehension came today on the same day that North Georgia Diamond has officially reopened after the incident, December 6, 2019. With quick repairs and replacements, a statement yesterday from North Georgia Diamond said, “There are still a few cases that need new glass (that will happen Saturday) and we may be a bit stressed but we will not let this senseless break in get us down.”

In fact, as if in opposition to the diamond theft, North Georgia Diamond has already announced two sales going on this weekend, quickly returning to not only normal business, but showing resilience against both the break-in and the loss of merchandise at the time.

Nicholson stated, “It would appear, at this time, that at least a large portion of the stolen merchandise from North Georgia Diamond was recovered by the good work of the Turner County Deputies.”

GCSO honors employees

Community, News


ELLIJAY, Ga. – “It’s easy to stand up and be the leader of an agency that is doing so much positive every day,” said Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson on February 7, 2019, as he honored members of his staff.

Emphasizing how much his staff and employees help to make his position easier, Nicholson offered thanks for people who have “turned a job into a profession.”

The awards night saw several GCSO employees and even some officers from Ellijay Police Department honored from recent events.

Nicholson went on to note that discussions and debates among the Command Staff for these awards is one of the hardest discussions he has. He said that so much has changed since he started his time as Sheriff. With increasing issues and dangers in the profession, he took extra effort to express how much he cares and concerns himself over protecting the safety of officers as they perform their duties.


Sid Turner (right) and Jared Ogden (left) present the Sons of the American Revolution Commendation Medal to Sergeant Jason Reed.

The first award came with from Sid Turner and Jared Ogden of the Sons of the American Revolution who presented their Sons of the American Revolution Commendation Medal to Sergeant Jason Reed.

Turner said, “Sergeant Reed started his career with Gilmer County in March 27, 2007. He started his career as a Detention Officer. He later transferred to the Office of Professional Standards and he currently oversees the Sex Offender Registry. He serves the citizens of Gilmer County with integrity and he is really an asset to the department.”

Sheriff Nicholson presented the remaining awards for the Sheriff’s Office.

Sarah Raynes received the Communications Officer of the Year award.

Nicholson commented on how upbeat and energetic she has been in 2018 including a jarring move from day shift to night shift to fill a need in the department. He went on to note that her attitude throughout all of the positions hardships and trials makes her a pleasant dispatcher and great worker.

Detective Jeffrey Shelton received the Detective of the Year award.

Nicholson shared the words he received about Shelton saying it was his tenaciousness and his attitude as he was assigned several cases that blew up into much larger ordeals than originally expected. Through these cases, he continued his efforts, “sticking with it” as Nicholson stated.

In a position like Detective, Nicholson said certain cases can be very easy. But, in one day, they can become an investigation spanning several generations.

Corporal Tommy Humphries received the Deputy of the Year award.

Nicholson spoke about Humphries’ specialized talents as Deputy able to go to neighbors dispute, mediate the process, settle the issue, and be invited back for coffee later.

The effort and the nature of a person required to see that kind of success in the role of Deputy is an indispensable member of the office.

Nicholson said that dealing with tense situations is part of the job that Deputies must deal with, but handling those issues so well that you’re invited back, “That’s a good Deputy Sheriff.”

Lieutenant James Knight received the Court Services Deputy of the Year award.

Nicholson stated that most people don’t understand all the work that goes in to being a Court Services Deputy. With issues that arise from short notice events, securing the courthouse, checking between 400 and 800 citizens a day as they enter the courthouse, logisitcs issues with ID’s and courts, these deputies must be flexible and responsive to the special needs of their post. Lt. Knight does this with ease as he attends to the daily issues in the courthouse.

Kim Rogers received the Civilian Employee of the Year award.

Nicholson admitted the excessive work that gets put on the civilian employees that the office has saying, “They do a lot of work, they give above and beyond. They keep the agency running straight. They keep the agency in good graces with the District Attorney’s Office by providing reports. They keep the jail records straight. They keep bonds straight. They keep the money we take in. They keep everything going in the right direction.”

Nicholson went on to note the Rogers came to the Sheriff’s Office to fill the gap of a big role. She took the spot to a new level in everything she keeps track of. He noted the extra work she has taken in since joining the office and rolling with everything asked of her.

From left to right, Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, GCSO Lieutenant Joshua Chancey, EPD Sergeant Aaron Mashburn, EPD Officer Trevor McClure, GCSO Deputy First Class Lesse Sippel, GCSO Sergeant Daniel King, and GCSO Corporal Gene Hefner.

The final award of the night actually hosted several officers and deputies as Nicholson presented Combat Citations along with a ribbon, to be worn on their uniforms, for those involved in the November 6, 2018, incident.

Those receiving the Combat Citation included Ellijay Police Officer Trevor McClure and Sergeant Aaron Mashburn and Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office’s Deputy First Class Lesse Sippel, Corporal Gene Hefner, Sergeant Daniel King, and Lieutenant Joshua Chancey.

These men and women served honorably in the face of danger and threat to their lives this night. Nicholson delivered the award saying, “On November 6, 2018… Members of the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office and the Ellijay Police Department responded to Corals Lane in reference to a man with a gun call. As officers approached the location, a known violent felon, armed with a pistol, attempted to ambush them. When the subject refused to drop the weapon and pointed it at officers while shouting his intent to shoot them, deadly force was employed to protect themselves and the citizens, who were in the residence, from death or harm. The officers’ actions during this life-threatening incident are to be commended.”

There were also two awards not delivered as the recipients were not available at the time of the awards ceremony.

Kurtis Parks received the Detention Officer of the Year award.

Deputy Joshua Easley received the Student Resource Officer of the Year award.



McCoy Captured

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Details are surfacing of the arrest of Willie Lee McCoy who escaped custody over the weekend.

According to Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, new information came into the office effecting an armed response by Sheriff’s Deputies and K-9 units with assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and U.S. Marshall’s Service. As units approached the area, Nicholson did not release the location, they were able to take McCoy back into custody “without incident.”

Officials are also reporting that another female was arrested as well. Nicholson confirmed the arrest was related to the McCoy case.

According to Nicholson, units arrived at the location this morning where they followed up on the tip and gathered further information leading to his whereabouts. Stay with FYN as we provide further information on the arrest as both suspects are processed in the detention center.

As of this time, McCoy is in custody in the Gilmer County Detention Center.

GBI releases details of Gilmer shooting

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Willie McCoy, 39, of Ellijay was the only injury from Tuesday’s, November 6, shooting according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) press release today.

Requested to perform an “officer-involved-in-shooting” investigation by the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, the GBI state that McCoy is alleged to have attempted to force his way into a residence while armed with a gun.

As officer’s from both the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office and the Ellijay Police Department responded to the 911 call, they found McCoy as they approached the house. The GBI states that the McCoy was pointing a gun at officers and the ensuing action resulted in McCoy being shot multiple times.

The press release states that EMTs provided care before transporting him to the hospital. McCoy remains there at this time.

Stay with FYN as we reach out to local law enforcement for a statement on the incident. See the full press release as follows:

Ellijay, GA (November 7, 2018) – On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was requested by the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office to conduct an officer involved shooting investigation in the area of Quarles Lane in Ellijay, GA. Preliminary information indicates that a 911 call was made to the Gilmer County 911 Center at approximately 7:31 p.m. The caller indicated that Willie McCoy, 39, of Ellijay, GA was asked to leave the area of the residence and refused. McCoy was also armed with a gun. As the situation unfolded, McCoy attempted to make entry into the residence. Given this information and the fact that McCoy had outstanding felony warrants for aggravated assault and home invasion, officers from both the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office and the Ellijay Police Department responded to the location. Upon approach to the house, officers encountered McCoy who was pointing a gun at the officers. As a result, McCoy was shot multiple times. EMTs staged with officers and were able to provide immediate medical care to McCoy. McCoy was transported to a hospital for treatment, where he remains.

No law enforcement officers were injured in the incident.

The GBI will conduct its independent investigation. Once complete, it will be turned over to the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for review.

Fetching Features: a look at Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson

Community, Lifestyle

Out of 159 sheriffs in the Sheriff’s Association, nine serve as regional vice-presidents. Then, there is the executive board with a first vice president, second vice-president,  secretary/treasurer, and the president of the Sheriff’s Association.

This year, the position of president is filled by Gilmer County’s own Sheriff Stacy Nicholson.

After serving for six years as a regional vice president, Nicholson ran for the position of secretary/treasurer in 2015. Having been elected to that position, the process continued as the elected person will serve in all positions until he reaches and concludes with the presidency. A process that Nicholson says helps to prepare that person for the presidency as he gains experience and service throughout each other position.

But this is more than just a presidency as it sets his future in the Association on the Board of Directors. While he has served on the board in previous years as a regional vice president, his election in 2015 placed him permanently on the board as long as he serves as sheriff. This is because the Board of Directors is made up of the four Executive Board members, the current regional vice presidents, and the past presidents of the association.

Our sheriff’s progress along this path was not always so clear, though. He began at 19-years-old when he took a job at the jail. Nicholson says he wasn’t running around as a kid playing “sheriff” or anything that would have preceded his life in law enforcement. He had never considered the career until his mother made a call one day and got him a position in the jail in March of 1991. In a process that only took one weekend, the young man went from needing a part-time job and searching for something to fill that need to an on-the-clock deputy working and training at the Detention Center on March 3.

There was no training seminars to attend, no special certifications to obtain. He simply spoke with Sheriff Bernhardt on the phone as the interview, showed up to collect his uniform, and began work the next day.

Even then, it was never a thought in Nicholson’s mind about the position of sheriff. Instead, he began immediately looking at the next level of law enforcement, a deputy. More specifically, he began striving to become a deputy-on-patrol. Serving daily at the jail led to a quick “training” as he dealt with situations and convicts, but it was also short-lived.

Six months after entering the detention center, he achieved his goal and secured his promotion.

To this day, Stacy Nicholson holds true to his thoughts, “Anybody who wants to be in local law enforcement, where they’re out patrolling the streets of a community, they ought to start out in the jail because you’re locked up in a building for 8-12 hours every day with inmates.”

The situation quickly teaches you, according to Nicholson, how to handle situations, criminal activity, and convicts. It is how he likes to hire deputies as he says it “makes or breaks them.” It allows the department to see if that person can handle the life the way they want it handled. More than just handling difficult situations, though, it is a position of power over others that will show if you abuse the power while in a more contained and observed environment.

Though his time in the detention center was “eye-opening” and an extreme change from his life to that point, Nicholson actually says the part of his career that hit the hardest was his time as a deputy.

The life became more physically demanding as he began dealing with arrests, chases, and the dangers of responding to emergencies and criminal activity. However, it also became more mentally taxing as Nicholson realized the best tool for most situations was his own calm demeanor. That calm sense could permeate most people to de-escalate situations.

Nicholson relates his promotion out of the jail as similar to the inmates he watched over. He says, “It was almost a feeling like an inmate just released from six months confinement. He feels free, I felt free. I’m in a car, I’m a deputy sheriff… I can go anywhere I want to in this county.”

Nicholson’s high point of the promotion was shattered quickly, though, with one of the first calls to which he responded. He notes that at that time in the county, at best, he had one other deputy patrolling somewhere in the county during a shift. A lot of times, he would be the only deputy patrolling on his shift. Still, even with another deputy on patrol, he could be twenty minutes away at any given time.

It became an isolating job, alone against the criminal element. Though we still live in a “good area,” and even in the early ’90s, a lower crime area relative to some in the country. Still, Nicholson says, there were those who would easily decide to harm you, or worse, to avoid going to jail.

Telling the story of one of his first calls on patrol, Nicholson recalled a mentally deranged man. The only deputy on duty that night, he responded to a call about this man who had “ripped his parent’s home apart.” Arriving on the scene and beginning to assess the situation, he discovered that this deranged man believed he was Satan. Not exaggerating, he repeated this part of the story adding weight to each word, “He thought that He. Was. Satan. He actually believed he was the devil.”

Scared to death, he continued talking to the man and convinced him to get into his vehicle without force.

It became quite real about the types of things he would see in this career. It sunk in deep as to exactly what the police academy and training could never prepare him to handle. Yet, Nicholson says it taught him more than anything else. It taught him he had to always be quick-thinking and maintain the calm air. It became a solemn lesson to “try to use my mouth more than muscle.”

The flip-side of the job, however, makes it worse. Though sharing the extreme stories like this one showcases the rarer moments of the position, he says it is actually a slow, boring job on patrol. It is because of this usual pace that sets such a disparity to the moments when he got a call to more serious situations. His job was never like the movies with gunfights every day and then you just walk away and grab a drink. The high-intensity points were harder to handle because you are calm and relaxed before the call. It causes an adrenaline spike and your body kicks over into a different gear so suddenly. An “adrenaline dump” like that made it hard for Nicholson to keep from shaking on some days.

Even in his years as a detective, it seemed it would always happen as he laid down to sleep when a call came in. The rebound from preparing to sleep and shut down for the day all the way back to being on high function and stress of working a crime scene could be extreme. With so much adrenaline, Nicholson can only refer to these moments as “containment, ” conquering the feeling and holding it down in order to function properly in the situation.

“It’s all in your brain and, I guess, in your gut,” Nicholson says that while he has known people who thrive on the adrenaline and actively seek it, they really become a minority in the big picture, only 1-2%. He notes, “If a cop tells you he has never been in a situation where he was scared, he’s probably lying.”

This is the point of courage, though. He references an old John Wayne quote, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” It is the point of the job that sets them apart from most people. You cannot do the job without courage, you cannot last in it.

Courage in the moment doesn’t mean you don’t feel the effects. Dealing with everything that an officer sees, feels, and hears through the line of duty is another trial all its own.

Handling it, he said, is to just put it away for a while. Still, he says he had to deal with it eventually. Nicholson says throughout his time in this career through deputy, detective, and sheriff, he deals with those emotions and dark points through camaraderie with friends and fellow officers, taking a night to talk with close friends and talking through the hard points.

Nicholson also says he finds relief in his faith in God after becoming a Christian in 1982. Turning to him in order to find comfort in letting go of the issues, “talking to God” is something that Nicholson says he falls on later. As you find yourself in certain situations and you put off the emotions to deal with, you have to turn back and face it with God’s help at some point. Stress is an enormously negative factor in his position and dealing with it productively in the key. Fighting against destructive processes that lead to heavy drinking and suicide is the reality of any serious law enforcement career.

One of the hardest points in his career is one well known in Gilmer County. It is hard to speak about the Sheriff’s Office in Gilmer without speaking of one of its biggest losses in Officer Brett Dickey. Even over 20 years later, Nicholson says it shapes and affects him to this day.

Directly involved in the shooting, Nicholson was one of the officers on location that night. He and Mark Sanford were on location attempting to get a man out of the house with other officers forming a perimeter around the residence.

Even speaking of it today, watching and listening to Sheriff Nicholson retell the story, you can see the change it puts into his face, into his voice. You watch his eyes fall to the floor as he mentions the details. You see him straighten in his chair slightly as if preparing to brace against an impact. You hear his voice soften, losing a little of the authoritative tone. In this moment, you hear the wound.

“That’s the only shot I’ve ever fired in the line of duty.” Firing the shot at the suspect as he was shooting, Nicholson says he fired into a very small area to try to shoot him to stop the gunfire. With 10 shots fired randomly, Nicholson says, “The entire situation, it seemed like it took thirty minutes to unfold, but it actually happened all in about three to four seconds… Two deputies were hit, it was definitely a dark night in the career.”

He swears it is an incident that he will never forget. It was a turning point that set the direction for his life in the coming years. After that, Nicholson began taking training personally to become something more. It became more than just a job that night.

It was a night that forced Nicholson deeper into the life that is law enforcement.

Even now, as Sheriff, he couldn’t quite answer the question if the lifestyle is something he can turn off after he leaves. It even defines his goals in the position as he says, “My number one goal is to never have to bury an officer. That’s my number one goal, and my second goal is that we don’t have to kill someone else.”

Accomplishing both of these goals is something Nicholson says he understands isn’t as likely as it used to be, but it is something he continually strives for in his career.

With his career and training advancing, Nicholson began thinking about running for office in 1998. Though he was thinking of it at that time. He didn’t run for the position until 2004. Now on his fourth term, Nicholson continues his efforts into the position of law enforcement. While he looks at it from more of the big picture standpoint than he did as a deputy, he says he has to remember he is first a law enforcement officer and must act accordingly. However, the position of sheriff is a political figure and has public responsibilities because of that.

He offers an example of his wife and kid being sick at one time. Heading to the store to get Gatorade to help them feel better, he says he may get caught for an hour in the Gatorade aisle talking to someone about a neighbor dispute going on. “The sheriff is the representative of the law enforcement community to the citizens. The citizens would much prefer to talk specifically to the sheriff than a deputy that’s actually going to take care of the problem.”

It becomes a balancing act of the law enforcement lifestyle and being a politician. Being in a smaller community only increases the access as everyone knows and commonly sees the sheriff.

On the enforcement side, taking the role in the big picture sense, he says he has had to pay more attention to national news and its effects on the local office and citizens. Going further, rather than worrying about what to do on patrol, he’s looked more at locations. Patrol zones and the need for visibility of officers in certain areas over others.

The position also separates you from others, “It’s tough to have to discipline someone who is one of your better friends… You learn to keep at least a small amount of distance between yourself and those you are managing.” As much as you want to be close friends with those you serve alongside, the position demands authority. Nicholson compares the Sheriff’s Office to more of a family, saying someone has to be the father. Someone has to be in that leadership role.

The depth of the role is one thing Nicholson says he has been surprised with after becoming sheriff.  He explains that he didn’t expect just how much people, both citizens and employees, look to him to solve certain problems. He chuckles as he admits, “I can’t tell you the number of times that I pull into the parking lot and I might handle four situations in the parking lot before I get to the front doors of the courthouse.”

People often look to the sheriff for advice on situations or to be a mediator.

Despite the public attention, Nicholson says the hardest thing he deals with in his position is balancing the needs against the county’s resources. Speaking specifically to certain needs over others is a basic understood principle of leadership, it is one Nicholson says he knows too well when balancing budgets and funds versus the office’s and deputy’s needs. Whether it is equipment, training, salary, or maintenance, he says that trying to prioritize these needs and provide for them is the toughest task.

Despite the surprises and the difficulties, Nicholson states, “It’s me, it’s my command staff, all the way down to the boots on the ground troops. I think we have put together one of the best law enforcement agencies that Georgia has to offer.”

Gaining state certification in his first term was one proud moment for Nicholson as the office grew in discipline and achieved policy changes. Though it wasn’t easy, he says he had to ‘hold his own feet to the fire’ during the process as the office went down the long checklist to accomplish the feat. Setting the direction for the office at the time, the changes to policies and disciplines were only the start of keeping the office on track to the task.

It signaled a growth and change from the days of one or two deputies on patrol in the county into a more professional standardized agency, a growth that Nicholson holds close as one of his accomplishments that his deputies and command staff have helped him to achieve.

It is a point echoed by his one on his command staff, Major Mike Gobble, who said, “When he took office, one of his first goals was to bring the Sheriff’s Office up-to-date and modernize the sheriff’s office from salaries to equipment. Making sure we had the pull to do our job, that was one of his major priorities.”

Gobble says going from one to two deputies on shift to four or five deputies on shift improved their response time alongside managing patrol zones. Gobble went on to say its the struggle that he sees the sheriff fight for his deputies for salaries, benefits, and retirement that shows his leadership. It is that leadership that draws Gobble further into his position in the command staff.

Now, having Gilmer’s sheriff moving into the position as President of the Sheriff’s Association, it’s prideful to see that position held here in Gilmer County. As sheriff, Gobble says he handles the position with respect and class. He knows how to deal with the citizens of the county, but also with those outside the county and at the state level. “He’s a very approachable kind of person. Not just as a sheriff, but an approachable kind of person.”

It is a quality Gobble says serves the people well to be able to talk to people respectfully while having an “open ear” to help them with their problems. Its the point that not every employee sees, he’s working towards improving their positions and pay for what they give to service.

Improving these positions is something Nicholson himself says is very difficult, especially around budget times in the year. Noted repeatedly over the years for the struggles at budget times in the county, Nicholson says it is about the perspective of the county. “I’m not over those departments, I’ve got my own stuff to look after… but we are all a part of the same county government.”

It is always a difficult process for those involved. He continues his thoughts on the topic saying, “I always have a true respect for the need for the other county departments to have adequate funding… But when it comes down to it, I’ve got to put being a citizen aside and be the sheriff. My responsibility is to look after the sheriff’s office.”

While the financial portions of the sheriff’s position stand as Nicholson’s least-liked part of the job, he balances the other half seeing the community support for officers in our county. He says he gets disappointed at seeing the news from across the nation in communities that protest and fight law enforcement. Living in this community affords him his favorite part of the job in being around people so much.

From the employees he works alongside to the citizens that speak to him to the courthouse’s own community feel. Its the interaction with people that highlights the days for Nicholson as he says, “It ought to be illegal to be paid to have this much fun.”

Even the littlest things like one situation that he recalls, he was speaking with an officer at the security station of the courthouse, one man came in and began speaking with Nicholson as another man walks in. The two gentlemen eventually began conversing with each other, but it became apparent that neither could hear well. As the conversation progresses with one trying to sell a car and the other speaking on a completely different topic of a situation years earlier. Nicholson says it was the funniest conversation he has ever heard and a prime example of simply getting more interaction with the public as sheriff.

It is an honor that he says competes with and conflicts with his appointment to the Sheriff’s Association, conflict simply in the idea that it is just as big of an honor to be a part of the leadership of Gilmer’s community as it is to be a part of the leadership of the state organization.

The presidency will see Nicholson in the legislature’s sessions and a part of committee meetings in the process. Traveling to the capitol during legislative session and a winter, summer, and fall conference for the association make-up the major commitments of the positions.

Starting to look at the Executive Committee 2009 as something he wanted to achieve, he gained this desire from a now past president that still serves on the Board of Directors as an inspiration to the position. As one of a few people that Nicholson calls a mentor, this unnamed guide led Nicholson to the executive board through his own example in the position. Now achieving it himself, Nicholson says he hopes that he can, in turn, be that example for other younger sheriffs and build the same relationships with them that have inspired him.

Calling the presidency a great achievement, Nicholson didn’t agree that it is a capstone on his career saying, “I’m not done with being sheriff in Gilmer County.”

While focusing on his position on the Executive Board and his position as Gilmer Sheriff, Nicholson says he doesn’t have a set goal to accomplish past the coming presidency. Promoting the profession of law enforcement as president of the Sheriff’s Association and growing the Sheriff’s Office in Gilmer County, these are the focus that Nicholson uses to define the next stages of his career.

To continue his growth in the county office, he says he is reaching an age where he can’t plan several terms ahead anymore. He wants to look at the question of running for Sheriff again to each election period. That said, he did confirm that he definitely will run again in 2020.

 

UPDATE: Drusilla Patrick autopsy confirms homicide

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A new update has come from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in the case of the murder of Drusilla Patrick.

Completing the autopsy, GBI has confirmed a gunshot wound leading to homicide. Though believed to be Drusilla Patrick, the release states they are still awaiting a formal forensic identification of the body. Though officials are continuing the investigation into her death, another new development came with news of Charles Michael Patrick’s death in custody at the Gilmer County Detention Center.

As reported in the original press release, Wednesday, April 25, 2018, the GBI and Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) executed a search warrant at the Patrick home on Ridgemont Drive in Ellijay, Georgia, which extended into Thursday. On Thursday, human remains believed to be those of Drusilla Patrick were located on the property.

The official release for the completion of the autopsy states:

The autopsy for Drusilla Patrick was completed at the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office on Friday, April 27, 2018. The cause of death was determined to be gunshot wound and the manner of death was determined to be homicide. A formal forensic identification of Drusilla Patrick is pending.

Murder Arrest in Gilmer

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A joint operation between the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO), the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI), and United States Probation Officers culminated in an arrest yesterday of Charles Michael Patrick, 72, of Ridgemont subdivision in Ellijay, GA.

Federal Probation officers were supervising Patrick, according to a GBI press release, when they became concerned about the whereabouts of his wife, Drusilla Patrick. During the ensuing investigation by the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, a request was made for assistance from GBI.

Charles Michael Patrick, 72, was arrested Thursday, April 26, on murder charges for his wife, Drusilla Patrick.

Charles Michael Patrick, 72, was arrested Thursday, April 26, on murder charges for his wife, Drusilla Patrick.

Their press release states, “When the probation officer received information that Charles Patrick re-married unexpectedly, he questioned Patrick about Drusilla Patrick and received conflicting statements.”

The Gilmer Sheriff’s Office states that in addition to Federal Probation, Patrick was being monitored as a registered sex offender by GCSO.

A cooperative investigation by the GBI and GCSO revealed: “Drusilla Patrick was last seen alive between December 2016 and January 2017.” GBI also reports that Patrick had told different people different reasons for Drusilla’s absence and that they were not actually married, having been legally divorced in 1970.

Additionally, Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson noted it was excellent “head’s up police work” by federal probation officers and Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office Sex Offender Registry Compliance Officer is what led to the solving of a murder and missing person that had never been reported.

According to the GBI:

“On Wednesday, April 25, 2018, the GBI and GCSO executed a search warrant at the Patrick home on Ridgemont Drive in Ellijay, Georgia which extended into Thursday. On Thursday, human remains believed to be those of Drusilla Patrick were located on the property. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday, April 27th at the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office in Decatur, Georgia.”

The Sheriff’s office reports that Patrick was taken into custody at a local motel without incident on Thursday, April 26, by Sheriff Nicholson, Gilmer County Deputy Sheriffs, GBI Agents, and a Federal Probation Officer.

Nicholson stated, “I can not begin to give adequate praise to Corporal Jason Reed and the federal probation officers.”

Patrick is currently housed in the Gilmer County Detention Center charged with Murder and held without bond at this time. With the investigation continuing and the GBI claiming additional charges could still be forthcoming, officials are not revealing anything further at this time.

Sheriff Nicholson did make one final comment to commend the work of his Detectives and the GBI Region 8 agents for their excellent investigation into a crime that could have very easily never been discovered, much less solved.

Read the official press releases from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for further information.

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.

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

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

Dog Owner Arrested in Investigation

News

ELLIJAY, GA – According to official releases from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, an arrest was made earlier today regarding the dog attack and death of 61-year-old Kathy Sue Nichelson in Cherry Log, Georgia.

During their continuing investigation, the Sheriff’s office arrested Dante Holloway, who is now in custody.

He is currently facing two charges, Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Conduct, and has a $50,000 bond for both charges. The charges stem from his responsibility as owner of the pit bull that attacked and killed Nichelson.

According to Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, there is no information at this time to indicate Holloway has any other dogs that citizens need be concerned about. As for the pit bull who attacked Nichelson, as reported in “Details Reveal Victims of Dog Attack,” officers were forced to fire upon the dog at the scene.

Comments on Facebook and FetchYourNews allege other previous victims from the dogs, but no solid evidence has been found at this time.

The official release from the Sheriff’s Office stated:

Today, Detectives with the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office have taken Dante Holloway into custody. He has been booked into the Gilmer County jail and is charged with Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Conduct. The arrest is a result of the investigation into the death of Ms. Kathy Nichelson by a Pit Bull owned by Mr. Holloway. His bond is $50,000 for both charges.

Incident Report Releases Details on Dog Attack

News

CHERRY LOG, GA – New details have arisen from the dog attack on Goose Island Road that resulted in the death of 61-year-old Kathy Sue Nichelson.

FYN has received the official incident report for both the response to the original dog attack and the arrest of Dante Holloway.

According to Sergeant Jason Newman, he arrived on scene at roughly 1:10 P.M. In his report, he states Nichelson was still breathing shallow and coherent. After Emergency Personnel arrived, Newman reports it was as he was watching out for the dog that they decided to contact the Coroner.

Later in the report, Newman states that Sergeant Blue Patterson was the officer forced to fire upon the dog as he came out from under the porch and began moving towards the him. Witness interviews confirmed in the report the dog had attacked a second victim, Morgan Fountain, who was bitten on the face.

When Dante Holloway was arrested during the investigations, an incident report from Deputy Austin McArthur stated he and another deputy, J. Holcombe, initiated a traffic stop with Holloway to issue warrants for his arrest. However, the report also states they found a bag with white residue which tested positive for methamphetamine.

Check more information in the official report:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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