City Accused Of Attempted Cover-Up After Release Of DPD IA Investigation
Many in the Douglas and Coffee County community were “flabbergasted” after learning of the actions, or lack thereof, of two local Douglas Police Department officers during an incident that occurred in April 2017, and some were shocked even more that the incident only recently came to the forefront after the local media and some city officials raised questions and requested full details of the events that not only occurred on April 26 and 27, 2017, but in the months afterwards. With the incident occurring nearly 10 months ago, many have accused some city officials, including City Manager Terrell Jacobs, of attempting to “cover-up” the incident, based on what many have described as an “overtly nonchalant attitude” though “obvious wrongdoing occurred” and tossed about accusations of “protecting the officer that is still employed for reasons unknown.””
The Internal Affairs investigation conducted by the DPD surrounding the actions of Officers Stacey Williams, who is still employed by the DPD as a Sergeant, and Officer John Derek Young, who is no longer an employee of the DPD but is now with the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office, during the incident last April was closed in October 2017, though the City of Douglas and DPD just released the findings of that investigation last week on Thursday, February 15. Those findings will lead to some form of disciplinary action against Williams, though no punishment has been announced as of press time, and a lawsuit against the city is “in the works,” according to sources with knowledge of the case.
The incident began when the two officers, Young (now a CCSO deputy) and longtime officer Sergeant Williams, responded to a call on April 26, 2017, that revolved around a “domestic problem.”
According to documents included in the information released by the city, a female, Katina Marie Coon, called police and reported her ex-boyfriend, Isaac Michael Loving, was upset and causing problems at the North Pearl Avenue residence.
The woman’s boyfriend, Jeffrey Fyffe, was at the residence and had a 20-gauge shotgun and told police he fired a “blank shell” into the ground when Loving “acted like he was going to hit him.” The majority of the interactions of all those at the scene were proven by the officers’ body cameras.
It was also revealed that Coon and Loving’s relationship ended after Loving “invited Fyffe into the two’s relationship for a threesome,” and Coon broke up with Loving shortly thereafter to be with Fyffe.
When officers arrived, Coon and the two men were still at the scene.
Fyffe, who fired the shot, told the officers the gun that he used was “probably illegal” as part of the barrel had been “sawed off.”
Officer Young asked Fyffe where the firearm was, and he said it was in his car.
Young did retrieve some brief information regarding the firearm from Fyffe, but the body camera footage revealed the officers primarily focused on “getting the two men” to leave the scene.
Shortly thereafter, Coon and Fyffe left the residence, though Loving stayed.
The footage revealed that prior to leaving the scene, Officer Young asked Sergeant Williams, who was the supervising officer, if they should look at the weapon and “run some numbers,” and Williams responded, though exactly what he said was inaudible.
What the footage showed was that neither officer ever properly investigated the gun, which the IA investigation revealed, before leaving the scene.
Just hours later at 5:11 a.m. the next morning, Fyffe used what was later determined to be a sawed off shotgun, which is a felony to possess in Georgia, to shoot Loving in the stomach after he and Coon returned to the residence.
It is alleged Coon told Loving he could sleep in the bed with her while he was asleep on the couch, but Coon was said to be intoxicated on Xanax and remained on the couch.
However, when he awoke and found Fyffe in bed with Coon, he became angry an asked Fyffe where the gun was located. Fyffe replied it was outside in the car, and Loving proceeded to walk outside to get the firearm, according to Fyffe.
Fyffe told police he heard a “boom,” and walked outside to find that Loving had shot himself in the stomach; however, the DPD investigation revealed Fyffe fired the shot that struck Loving, who survived the incident.
Fyffe was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a firearm, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime; but there’s another twist - he was released on bond in October and is believed to have fled the state, ironically, with Coon.
Loving’s family has since filed a notice of intent to sue the City of Douglas and the Douglas Police Department, which led DPD Chief Gary Casteloes to initiate the Internal Affairs investigation.
Documents revealed that Casteloes was “unaware of the allegations” that the Loving family’s attorney revealed in the letter referencing their intent to sue, which ultimately led to the IA investigation.
In short, the investigation revealed the officers didn’t follow the department’s policy during the incident, since it involved domestic violence and a firearm, and both officers should have investigated the gun further, which ultimately should have led to its seizure and the arrest of the individual possessing it.
Interviews with both officers during the IA investigation revealed that Williams, who was the higher ranking officer, meaning he was in charge of the scene, repeatedly said Young was in charge of the scene, though the DPD’s policy states that the higher ranking officer, regardless of who arrives first, is in charge.
Williams was asked by DPD Sergeant Leon Whitley, who led the IA investigation, if the incident should have been “handled differently,” to which Williams responded, “I didn’t answer the call – it was not my call,” even though he was clearly at the scene.
In Sgt. Whitley’s interview as part of the IA investigation with Officer Young, who is now a deputy with the CCSO, Young appeared to regret the fact that the incident was not investigated further. When asked by Whitley if he believed the incident “should have handled differently” Young stated, “I do – I believe it should have been handled differently.”
Once the DPD concluded the investigation, Chief Casteloes instructed Deputy Chief Brannen Pruette to reveal the findings to City Manager Terrell Jacobs, who said he did not believe “any disciplinary action” should be taken against Williams, though Pruette disagreed (Young could not face any action since he was no longer employed by the DPD).
Jacobs instead told Pruette the incident “should be shown as a training issue.”
Pruette documented Jacobs’ thoughts on the incident and presented them to Whitley, who later met with Jacobs about the investigation.
Whitley told Jacobs his statement about the incident being a “training issue” was “concerning,”
and Whitley said Williams’ action, or lack thereof, was “clearly a lack of or failure to properly supervise” and should be addressed with “disciplinary action.”
Jacobs again disagreed, and said it was a “training issue” on two more occasions during he and Whitley’s meeting.
Chief Casteloes and Deputy Chief Pruette both met with Jacobs on several more occasions after the investigation was closed in October, and both stood by their belief that Williams deserved to be disciplined for his actions that night in April.
Jacobs stood by his assertion that iwhat occurred was and should be used as a “training issue,” and the chief and deputy chief noted Jacobs “did not want Williams disciplined” despite the two calling Williams’ actions, which included failing to supervise, “liable.”
Once again, Jacobs again said he still believed it was a “training issue,” though he said the decision was Casteloes’ to make.
Pruette even said he felt Williams should be “demoted” as a result of the incident.
Williams still serves as a Sergeant and will face some form of disciplinary action for “policy violation,” though exactly what has yet to be revealed.
Chief Casteloes will make his decision on Williams’ punishment “soon,” according to sources.
With the findings of the IA investigation as they are, local legal experts said they expect the City of Douglas will end up having to “settle the suit, rather than risk what could eventually be a significant judgment” for the plaintiffs.