**UPDATED** Suspect in Custody retrieves weapon – attempts to flee in Pickens County

Police & Government

**UPDATED**

Additional Details:
The individual arrested during the case was Eric Wade Potts, a 37-year-old male from Jasper Georgia.
Mr. Potts has been charged with:
• Aggravated Assault against a Peace Officer
• Escape
• Possession of Methamphetamine
• Possession of Marijuana (less than an ounce)
It has been determined that the secure lock box located under the rear passenger seat of the patrol unit was found to be unlocked. The box is designed to be secured storage for supplies needed during patrol time. It is not the policy of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office to allow storage of weapons in the prisoner transport compartment of the patrol car. There were no live rounds of ammunition located in the container, but the deputy had stored his less lethal weapon in this compartment.

The storage of the weapon and the lack of locking the container are both under review by Internal Investigations.

During the struggle to regain the Less Lethal Shotgun, Mr. Potts fired one round of less lethal (bean bag round). Once the deputy regained control of the weapon, he fired additional bean bag rounds at the suspect. The suspect was struck once. Following the incident, EMS responded and evaluated Mr. Potts and he was cleared to be released to
the jail.

In addition to Mr. Potts, Keri Lee Lawrence, Age 42 from Canton Georgia, was also arrested during the investigation. She has been charged with Possession of Methamphetamine.
We are very grateful that this incident did not escalate to a potential deadly force encounter.
The case is still active at this time, and additional details are not currently available.

**Original Release**

Pickens County, GA

According to authorities earlier this morning, July 18th, deputies responded to a report of a suspicious person at a business in Tate Georgia. Upon arrival, deputies encountered a male in the parking lot of the business. As they approached him, he immediately attempted to walk away. During a pat down, deputies discovered a quantity of suspected methamphetamine and needles.

After the suspect was placed in the patrol vehicle, deputies went back to gathering information related to the initial call. Deputies went back to the vehicle to check on the individual and he had maneuvered his handcuffs from behind his back to his front and had been able to get into a secure box and retrieve a less-lethal shotgun loaded with bean bag rounds. The suspect aimed the weapon at the deputy and started to confront him. The deputy was able to wrestle the weapon away and the suspect began to run again. During the attempt to detain the individual, multiple bean bag rounds were fired by both the suspect and the deputy.

Following a brief foot pursuit, deputies were able to take him back into custody. A second individual that was with the suspect has also been detained to determine her involvement into the issue. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Scene Unit has also responded to gather evidence and process the seen.

Additional details are not available at this time due to the active nature of the crime scene but will be released once they are available.

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New fines set for leaving animals in cars

News

JASPER, Ga. – The Jasper Police Department is asking the city for more guidance and direction on its cruelty to animals ordinance as the agenda item came up this week during the council’s meeting.

According to Lonnie Waters of the City of Jasper, the city has already received calls this year about animals locked in vehicles in the heat of the day. This issue was addressed last year with an amendment to regulate this action if the outside temperature is over 70 degrees.

Wanting wording to add fines to a  maximum to the violation of this amendment, the police were seeking the council’s input and approval to make an addition saying, “A violation of section 14-12 shall carry of maximum penalty of a fine of…” With no specific amount set in their proposal, the city was left to set a maximum.

Jasper Mayor John Weaver asked the council to set a fine with regards to the differences between city and superior courts saying, “I think we should allow people to plead guilty to a Cruelty to Animals by leaving in the car when they run into the Walmart, so that we can deal with them in the courts of Jasper, Georgia, instead of making it so extensive that they don’t want to deal with us. They want to take it to Superior Court.”

The city approved a motion to set fines at $50 for first offense, $100 for second offense, and $150 for third offense. With this new addition, citizens who may make a mistake of this nature will face the $50 fine for violation. However, repeat offenders will face harsher fines.

Extreme cases and death of animals are separated according to Police Chief Greg Lovell who said during the meeting that animal deaths would still require their own response.

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Replacements, Rebuilds, and Resolutions in Jasper’s April Council

News

JASPER, Ga. – April’s expenses for the Jasper City Council are on the rise as they approve purchases and bids alongside an approval for over $100,000 for the Cove Road incident.

These purchases came from three different departments looking to update equipment for the coming spring months.

The Jasper Police Department sought approval, and received it, from the council for $33,900 for a new vehicle. According to Police Chief Greg Lovell, the need comes after several issues in the fleet including two cars in the shop for repairs and the Explorer being totaled after an accident in January. The new truck, Lovell said, will is coming from Ronnie Thompson Ford.

The Water Department requested funding for rebuilding three lift station pumps in the city from Highway 108 to Piedmont Mountainside Hospital. Water Superintendent David Hall spoke to the council about the builds with three different prices. The total cost for all three comes to $32,136.28. The first pump is $7,825.04. The second needs an internal part replaced as well, making the cost $10,634.90. The third pump needs the part replaced and a bearings replaced, making the cost $13,676.34.

Hall said the department already has moved other pumps in the city to cover the need that these pumps served, but this reduces the efficiency more each day. However, these pumps have served this need since 2002, according to Hall. With 17 years behind them before needing the rebuilds, Council member Tony Fountain noted that he hoped to get another 15 years out of these now.

A third purchase request came from the budgeted purchase of a zero turn lawnmower for the street department as the move into spring and prepare to for the maintenance needed. City Manager Brandon Douglas told the council that the city has received bids for the lawnmower. Goss Equipment’s bid was for $11,886.20 for a Grasshopper brand. Nelson Tractor Company’s bid was $12,615 for a Kubota brand. Ag-Pro $13,649.99 for a John Deere brand. Rolling Tire’s bid was for $13,000. Mason Tractor Company’s bid was for $12,526. The council approved Goss Equipment, the low bid, for their Grasshopper brand lawnmower. Fountain clarified with Douglas about the servicing program for the equipment. Douglas confirmed that Goss said the would work and provide for the needs saying that even if they had to outsource the work, they would provide a replacement available immediately for the needs of the city.

The council is also honoring a local citizen, Kyle Brock, with an official resolution to name the city dog park after him. Utility Development Planned Lonnie Waters presented the request to the council for a small marble plaque in honor of the service provided. The council quickly approved the request and pushed further to have Brock come before the council to receive the plaque so that they might further recognize the hard work and dedication he has provided to the animals of the community.

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PSO seeking suspect on loose

News

JASPER, Ga. – A recent social media post has escalated concerns by citizens over a suspect fleeing Police custody at a traffic stop.

Pickens County Sheriff’s Office Captain Kris Stancil did confirm with FYN that Andrew Flowers does have outstanding warrants and during an attempted traffic stop yesterday, Flowers was a passenger and successfully evaded capture by fleeing the scene.

Stancil did say citizens should be on the lookout for Flowers, but cautioned citizens against panic in the situation. Authorities are working diligently in their investigation and search for this wanted man.

Stancil further urged citizens to contact 911 with sightings and information. As with any suspect fleeing police, citizens should report their information and allow police to do their jobs in apprehending him. The Pickens Sheriff Office has since stated “At this time, our agency has no information or credible threat that Mr. Flowers is armed or dangerous, however we do request that if you have any information in regard to the whereabouts of Mr. Flowers, please contact the Pickens Sheriff’s Office at 706-253-8900 or the Pickens County Dispatch Center at 706-253-8911.”

Flowers has been in police custody before and currently has outstanding warrants with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.

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Wilson says, “We will charge them” in Vaping Presentation

News

JASPER, Ga. – District Attorney Alison Sosebee offered her presentation to parents that she has been showing to students this week. As a part of the chat with the superintendent program on September 24, Sosebee and Pickens Sheriff Donnie Craig joined in to inform parents about the vaping trend and the school’s responses.

Going through the same presentation as the one she offers the students, the only alterations came when Sheriff Craig added the Drug Task Forces formal response and when Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson offered the school systems official reply. Following along the same lines of thought, students and parents should begin expecting full repercussions on possession, use, and sharing of vaping devices as drug paraphernalia when viable instead of being treated like possessing cigarettes.

Sosebee also released information about those who came into contact with a substance that hospitalized five in a warrant on A1 Smoke Shop. The substance, identified as “Panaca,” a synthetic cannabinoid substance that is labeled as a “Schedule I Drug.” Sosebee compared this to Methamphetamine, a “Schedule II Drug.” She went on to note that this identifies synthetic marijuana, like that found in the smoke shop, is comparatively worse than Meth.

Wilson noted that the students have also been told that the consequences of vaping in school is increasing, and additional information from Sheriff Craig noted that criminal charges of this caliber could still involve 15 years in prison in the case of Schedule I Drugs.

As seen in the video, much of the night was spent attempting to inform parents and citizens about the issue, it was noted that the school system is taking a hard stance against the trend. Continuing to point to the fact that some may or may not know what is in the vape devices they use, authorities point to the commonality of hard drugs found across the nation in these devices as reasoning to utilize the full consequences made available in both the school’s code of conduct and criminal law to dissuade students from using these devices.

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“Vaping” incident part of a larger problem

News

Ellijay, Ga. – An incident report from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office confirmed reports of a student “blacking out” and suffering seizures after inhaling a substance from a SMOK Vape device.

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

The male student was hospitalized from the incident and later released. The incident, however, did prompt officials to call in K-9 units to search for other drugs. Authorities found two additional SMOK Vapes with one testing positive for containing marijuana. While the

original vape has been tested, no official response is available identifying the substance in the original device.

However, according to the incident report, it was reported that the student was told by a fellow classmate that “there was a vape in the boy’s restroom and he should go smoke some of it.”

With the investigation in Gilmer CID’s (Criminal Investigations Division) hands, no names of the students nor additional information is available.

However, FYN spoke with Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs who confirmed the incident is part of a larger problem facing the schools today. She told FYN that last year, the school system confiscated eight vape devices over the course of the entire year. This year, they have already collected 25 devices since the beginning of school a few weeks ago.

Each instance results in disciplinary action for the student as it is a violation of the code of conduct, according to Downs, but as the rise in using other substances in the devices continues, the charges against students get far more serious as they deal with controlled substances.

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Downs went on to say that she has spoken with other Superintendents to see if Gilmer is alone in the rise of vape usage. Though she declined to name which counties she had spoken with, she did confirm that Gilmer was not alone.

Confirming the rise in popularity of these devices in several counties, the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee made a press release stating, “Within the last week, several teens in Pickens, Gilmer and Fannin counties have experienced medical emergencies as a result of “vaping,” by use of electronic cigarettes. These medical emergencies necessitated treatment by both EMS and treatment at hospitals.”

Many of the vape devices found being used are very small handheld devices easily concealed within one’s palm or bag, like a purse or book bag, or even in one’s pocket as several designs become thinner and shorter. Downs confirmed they have found Juul brand vapes and last weeks incident report confirmed the males vape was a SMOK brand. Sosebee notes, “Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items.”

As the use of vapes themselves are intended to be used with nicotine for adult smokers, the rising concern is the ability to swap out the common “juice” for homemade cocktails or drugs. Downs confirmed that reports have been made of students crushing Adderall and other things to make the “juice.”

According to Juul’s website, “These alternatives contain nicotine, which has not been shown to cause cancer but can create dependency. We believe that these alternatives are not appropriate for people who do not already smoke.”

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Sosebee also commented on other substances that have been found in the devices saying, “The liquid that is inhaled, known commonly as “vape juice,” can contain any number of substances: it can contain flavoring; it can contain nicotine; it can also contain drugs and illegal substances such as THC oil, fentanyl and LSD. Of great concern, the user may or may not know what they are inhaling, what their reaction will be to the substances, what they are exposing others to and may erroneously believe that they are simply inhaling “harmless water vapor.” There is nothing harmless about what is occurring.”

Downs went on to say that some parents may have purchased vapes for their kids not knowing that they are swapping out the contents. The feeling was echoed by Sosebee as she called for parents to “be aware of the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.”

With concerns rising from parents, administration, and law enforcement alike, investigations are continuing as programs and events are attempting to educate the community about the devices and their popularity.

Downs said the Gilmer Administration is stepping up efforts in educating and building awareness in their staff about what to look for and also to educate our parents in the community saying, “I feel like there is a real lack of knowledge and lack of understanding among our community in relation to this… This has blown up overnight to the point that I feel like its almost epidemic.”

 

 

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Former Student found dead amid allegations

News

Cherry Log, Ga. – Amidst allegations and being wanted “in connection with kidnapping and sexual assault,” Bradley Justin Cochran was found dead yesterday in Metter, Ga from an apparent suicide.

Cochran lived in Cherry Log, Ga and was a former student of Pickens County High School, according to his Facebook Profile.

A release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) states the Cochran allegedly forced his way into a vehicle with three women at a grocery store in Statesboro. After they drove into Candler County, Cochran allegedly sexually assaulted two of the women before stealing the car and leaving the females on foot.

The Statesboro Police Department posted on their Facebook Page Monday saying, “As events unfolded, our officers were amazed by their strength and bravery. These women were just minding their own business, trying to leave the parking lot, when a stranger threatened them with a knife and forced his way into their vehicle.”

All three survived the encounter. Police say it is simply because of the quick action in a fight for survival. Hailing the girls as survivors and warriors.

They continued to praise the victims for their action as they “were able to create a diversion so one of them could escape, from a moving vehicle, to get help. She was able to give law enforcement vital information that led to the identification of the suspect and helped locate the other two women, and most likely saved their lives.”

The GBI was requested to join the investigation on Sunday, August 26, by the Candler County Sheriff’s Office and the Statesboro Police Department.

As the search for Cochran grew to include all three agencies, the Candler County Sheriff’s Office stated, “There was an extensive investigation and manhunt throughout the night and into the morning. All agencies and personnel involved demonstrated how a multi-agency operation should be carried out.”

At this time, the investigation into the incident is still ongoing, but the GBI did confirm that Cochran’s body will be sent to the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office in Savannah, Ga for official cause and manner of death.

 

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City Council Talks Festivals in August

News

JASPER, Ga. – The Jasper City Council’s August meeting saw a change in the traffic direction for this year’s Marble Festival in October as well as for the popular JeepFest event starting at the end of August.

Haley Bouchie, President of the Jasper Merchants Association, presented a request to close a portion of Main Street during the festival. The road is already to be closed for the Road Race and the Parade that are scheduled for the weekend’s festivities. The new request would see the road staying closed from 6 a.m. on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.

Bouchie stated the joint venture between the Jasper Merchant’s Association and the Pickens County Chamber would have security for the vendors on the street overnight. The request was made last year as well but denied. After several close calls with the traffic and pedestrians, according to Bouchie, they have returned with the request for this year’s festival.

Bouchie also told the council that they would be working alongside the merchants on the street to improve and increase their foot traffic despite the loss of the parking spaces on the street.

Expanding the Marble Festival up to Main Street cause a large discussion on how to get traffic around the closed street including Dixie, Mary, or even Whitfield streets. Sitting down with police and businesses to discuss traffic by foot and vehicle were assured to be forthcoming in preparation of the event.

Ultimately approved by unanimous decision, the event will see the road closed to traffic from 6 a.m. on Saturday, October 6, to 6 p.m. on Sunday evening, October 7.

The same request came for September’s JeepFest event asking to close Main Street for a “Show & Shine” of Jeeps lined up on the street. City Manager Jim Looney presented a letter from Kris Stancil of the Picken’s County Sheriff’s Office requesting the closure of the street on Friday, August 31, starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m. after a concert.

This is not the first time this request has been presented, having been done for years now. The request was approved for the event. Mayor John Weaver commented saying that the Jeeps take over all of Main Street with hundreds of Jeeps lined up down the road for the Show & Shine.

An additional request came from Wingsology for the JeepFest event. Requesting an outside beer and wine license, Wingsology is also a request from previous years.

The council approved the request unanimously as well.

With these events coming up quickly, citizens should be aware of the closures of Main Street during these events as to avoid congestion as they seek to travel through town or attempt to find parking. Shuttles are also being made available for the Marble Festival specifically. Citizens can find the shuttle areas by visiting the Marble Festival Website.

 

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