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September 15, 2011 Issue

Louisville officers return to work
Wadley club shooting suspect arrested in Florida
We Will Never Forget
Everyone encouraged to get flu vaccinesy

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Louisville officers return to work

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In a called meeting last week, Louisville City Council voted to return Officers James Boatright and Elliott Kline to duty.

The meeting was held at city hall Wednesday, Sept. 7. About 10 people attended.

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Also in attendance was the full council, Mayor Larry Morgan, City Administrator Don Rhodes and John Murphy, the city’s attorney.

The meeting had been called to address the finding of District Attorney Hayward Altman regarding charges of excessive use of force made against the two officers. The officers, who were suspended with pay by the city council on July 12, returned to work during the next rotation cycle after the called meeting last week, Louisville Police Chief Jimmy Miller said Monday.

Christopher Walden, 28, had filed a complaint against the officers stating they used excessive force during an arrest in June.

Miller turned the complaint over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate the charges. Their reports were turned over to Altman, who sent a letter to Miller that he would not be filing any action against either officer in this matter.

In the letter, dated Sept. 2, Altman stated, “I have carefully reviewed the file and made a determination that no criminal action shall be forthcoming against said officers.”

Morgan called the meeting to order and asked council if anyone had questions or comments.

Council member Sherry Combs said she had a comment.

“They were cleared,” she said. “But, to me, it’s saying it’s OK for you to act unethically.”

She referred to comments she said Kline had made on his personal Facebook page and said, “Some of the things that was on his Facebook were just not called for. It was still unethical; and, that should be addressed.”

There was some discussion; and, Combs said she did not think the officers should be allowed to return to work.

Council member Phil Polhill said, “So that’s saying that the investigation is inaccurate.”

“No,” Combs said, adding she was not involved in the investigation.

“The citizens,” she said, “they are not pleased with these officers. I just don’t think we should have them back.”

“We have to support our departments, police included,” Morgan said, adding that as far as the DA is concerned the officers were cleared. “There are some things that need to change,” he said.

Polhill said the police department will now have cameras, which he said is an important factor.

The mayor said every police officer will have a body camera within 30 days.

Polhill said the cameras are high quality.

He said going ahead and getting the cameras was a result of the complaint and investigation.

“If there’s a complaint, the (public safety) committee and the chief can take a look at it,” he said.

Council member Robert Dixon asked what rights the city has regarding reinstating or not reinstating the officers.

“Well, Georgia’s a right to work state,” Murphy said.

“You can let somebody go for no reason; but, you can’t let somebody go for the wrong reason,” he said.

The mayor said he didn’t see punishing someone found innocent.

“There’s a benefit of a doubt,” he said.

Combs asked if they could get input from other officers who ride with Boatright and Kline.

“Somebody could get hurt,” she said.

“They’re all subject to being hurt all the time,” Morgan said.

“I’ve worked with Hayward (Altman); and, I think he’s a fair person,” Combs said. “My thing is the ethics.”

The mayor asked for other comments and, hearing none, called for the vote.

“If we reinstate, they will be wearing video,” Dixon said. “That’s to protect them as well as the public.”

Morgan asked Miller about the cameras.

“Failure to operate, they will be disciplined up to termination,” the chief said. “We’re paying for these cameras; and, they will wear them.”

A citizen raised her hand; and, the mayor said, “Y’all are going to have to wait.”

“I don’t want to wait,” she said.

Polhill: made a motion to reinstate the officers. Dixon seconded the motion. A vote was taken and Polhill, Dixon and Council member Matt Hodges voted to reinstate the officers.

Combs and Council member Larry Atkins voted against the motion.

To the citizens who were present, Polhill said, “This incident has caused the public safety committee to become a lot more active.”

He said he wanted to assure the public the public safety committee is working and accessible.

“This is ridiculous,” a citizen said. “Y’all are putting officers back on the street. It’s on your hands.”

Citizen brought up the chief’s interview where he said Boatright lied on his application.

Another citizen asked how complaints are submitted.

The mayor said from this point forward, complaints should be made in writing to the city council.

A citizen said, “I came to the city council and nothing was done. I trusted Chief Miller; and, I trusted the city council; and, I was let down. It’s like we don’t matter.”

“That’s not true,” the mayor told her.

Morgan said no one gave enough evidence to the GBI for the officers to be found guilty of excessive force.

The mayor closed the meeting.

“My office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as well as Chief Miller take seriously any allegations made against any officer as we would allegations against anybody,” the DA said in an interview Monday.

“It’s important to us that our credibility and integrity can never be called into question by taking all of these allegations seriously. Public confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system is of paramount importance to us,” he said.

In records obtained by The News and Farmer / The Jefferson Reporter under the Freedom of Information Act, medical records show Walden was brought by a Louisville police officer to the Jefferson Hospital for treatment on the day of his arrest.

Altman said that is routine.

“Anytime there’s an arrest where pepper spray is used or where a person has been on the pavement and actually has some visible injuries, they’re required to take them to have a physical exam to make sure there’s no other physical injuries,” he said.

The DA said the GBI did an excellent job investigating the charges against the officers.

“They interviewed as many witnesses as would come forward,” he said.

“They then provided me with a summary of those interviews as well as recordings of those interviews,” Altman said, adding he listened to those audio tapes.

The DA said the GBI also obtained the medical records from the hospital. They downloaded the Taser records from the officer whose Taser was in use during the incident, he said.

This gave Altman a complete picture of what took place, he said.

Altman said he did not speak with Walden or either of the two officers.

“It would not have been appropriate for me to talk to any of the parties directly involved, Mr. Walden or the officers,” he said.

“I had to make an independent decision based solely on the facts presented to me by the independent agency that investigated the charges. It should be noted I still feel like the GBI did an excellent job as far as the investigation,” Altman said.

“When I look at a case, I don’t look at whether the person is severely injured but where the injuries are and whether the officer’s actions rose to the level of criminal conduct. I don’t evaluate whether they followed the correct procedure, I’m only looking at whether excessive force was used that would constitute criminal conduct,” he said, adding policy is determined solely by the local police department.

“It was an overall evaluation of everything,” he said, including the eyewitnesses who came forth.

“An extreme amount of importance was placed on Christopher Walden’s own statement,” he said.




Wadley club shooting suspect arrested in Florida

Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Law enforcement has arrested the 22-year-old suspected in last month’s shooting of three men at Lincoln Park Club.

The shootings occurred about 2 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 21, at the club, which is on Lincoln Park Road outside the city limits of Wadley. The suspect also reportedly shot into a car; but, no one inside the car was injured.

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A spokesman with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday the suspect, Willie James Price Jr. of the Bartow Wadley area, had been detained by law enforcement in Florida.

The spokesman had said last month family members of Price said he would turn himself in to the sheriff’s office.

“He didn’t turn himself in,” the spokesman said. The sheriff’s office registered information about warrants for Price’s arrest with the National Crime Information Center and the Georgia Crime Information Center, he said.

“Florida had detained him for something. He gave them the wrong name. They called us and we confirmed that we wanted him and that we’d extradite him,” the spokesman said, adding Price waived extradition.

“He didn’t fight extradition. So we sent two jailors down,” he said. “We had heard recently that he was trying to go to Florida; but, we didn’t know if he’d actually left.”

The spokesman said law enforcement investigators spoke with some family members and explained anyone allowing Price to stay with them could possibly be charged with harboring a fugitive. It is believed the family members made Price leave, he said.

Price has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault, three counts of possession of a firearm or knife while trying to commit crimes and a probation violation.




We Will Never Forget

By

A tragedy that shook the nation, the memories of 9-11 will not be forgotten in the area. Students, teachers and staff at Louisville Middle School held a ceremony on Friday, Sept. 9. The John Franklin Wren Chapter of the DAR held a 10th anniversary memorial on Sept. 11, as well as Judy Tatum, who organized Cry Out America on the Jefferson County Courthouse lawn.

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Everyone encouraged to get flu vaccines

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Health departments in the East Central Georgia Health District are receiving influenza vaccines for the upcoming flu season.

The vaccines this year should protect against three influenza viruses during the 2011-2012 season, including influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2) and influenza B.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

Symptoms of flu include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and vomiting and diarrhea which are more common in children than adults.

The CDC said most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

Jefferson County Health Department Nurse Manager Janet Pilcher said the influenza vaccine is open to everyone this year.

“There are no specific groups, it is for anyone six months and older,” she said, adding, “There is plenty of vaccine out there this year.”

The Jefferson County Health Department has already received shipments of the vaccines and has even vaccinated some citizens already. Vaccines include shots and the nasal mist.

Pilcher said while the flu virus usually peaks during January and February, there are different peak times for different areas.

“Two years ago, we had the H1N1 show up right as children went back to school,” she said.

The influenza vaccine will be given throughout the entire season, Pilcher said.

At the Glascock County Health Department, Nurse Manager Nona Lord said that they currently have three doses of the flu vaccine, including the nasal flu mist, the high dose shots for citizens 65 years and older, as well as the regular flu vaccine for those six months and older.

“We would appreciate if they would call, but they can drop in and we will take care of them,” Lord said.

Tuesday morning, she said that the office was full of residents already wanting the vaccine.

Both departments will offer the shot at $25 per shot or free for patients with Medicare, Medicaid or State Health Insurance.

To make an appointment, contact Jefferson County’s Health Department at (478) 625-3716 and Glascock County’s Health Department at (706) 598-2061.

The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season, but the CDC said that flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

There is a period of contagiousness, when the flu may be passed on before someone knows they are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended in February 2010 that everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine to expand protection against the flu to more people.

While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it’s especially important that certain people get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications.

Those include children younger than 5, especially those younger than 2, adults 65 years of age or older, pregnant women, American Indians, Alaskan natives, people with medical conditions including asthma, neurological conditions, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, endocrine disorders, kidney disorders, liver disorders, metabolic disorders, HIV, AIDS and are morbidly obese.

Vaccinations are important for those who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, health care workers and caregivers.

People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated until their symptoms lessen.

For more information about the flu vaccine, consult a health care provider.






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