As several of us here have been covering the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, I’ve developed a growing sense of unease about the entire situation in Glynn County, Georgia. Regular readers know that I’ve long been a serious supporter of law enforcement and when problems arise, if anything, I tend to extend our first responders the benefit of the doubt. Every once in a while you come across a bad apple, but in my experience, that’s the very rare exception rather than the rule.
The more we learn about what’s been going on in that rural region of Georgia, however, the more it appears that there are justifiable concerns that need to be addressed. This was brought into focus when I was contacted by a reader with some direct experience in these matters. They are a resident of Glynn County and offered a statement on conditions of anonymity out of concerns over possible reprisal. The following is their statement regarding not just the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, but a lot more that’s been going on in that region for many years now.
“This murder, in my opinion, could have been avoided if the local police enforced the law on themselves. Our cops kill innocent people all the time here. Caroline Small was murdered by a cop who in turn brutally murdered his estranged wife and her boyfriend before committing suicide. After assaulting her in front of uniformed officers. They did nothing. Ahmaud deserves justice. Caroline deserves justice. Katie Kettles and John Hall deserve justice. Our DA is crooked. Our cops are crooked. Our judge was national news at one point for running the drug court program while getting off scot-free for several DUIs. I don’t have the means or platform to make noise, but I advocate for what’s right and I believe that maybe in some small way I can help by getting the word out.”
That sounds like something out of a movie until you dig a little deeper and find out that their tale concerns very real events that have been covered in the local press over the years. Some of these you may have already heard of. Others may be less well known.
Let’s start with the aforementioned Caroline Small. In June of 2010, the 35-year-old mother of two was observed driving erratically in her car by Glynn County police officers. She had a history of drug and alcohol problems as well as struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Dissociative Disorder, but no real criminal record. She led the officers on a low-speed chase until her tires were flattened and her car was pinned down between a utility pole, two police cars and a ditch. For reasons that will never be known, rather than getting out of the car as instructed she attempted to put it into reverse and then drive a couple of times. There wasn’t enough room for her to get the car up to any speed at all. The police opened fire through her windshield, striking her eight times in the head and face. There’s a video of the actual shooting at the top of the linked page. I considered embedding it here, but it’s too horrible. You have been warned.
A grand jury was impaneled to hear the case against the two police officers, Sgt. Robert C. Sasser and Officer Michael T. Simpson. The grand jury found the officers’ actions to be justified. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation later found that the police had allegedly tampered with evidence at the scene and leaked information from the grand jury to the officers months in advance. Both officers remained on the force. A later investigation would reveal that in the case of Sasser, this “wasn’t his first shooting,” but no other details are provided.
That brings us to the sad story of Katie Kettles and John Hall. In 2018, one of the two officers from the Caroline Small shooting, Robert Sasser, shot his ex-wife (Kettles) and her boyfriend (Hall) to death before taking his own life. Kettles had faced years of harassment from her former husband and once predicted to her mother that “the Glynn County Police Department will do nothing until someone leaves here out of a body bag.”
The judge mentioned above is Amanda Williams. Roughly a decade ago her reputation for “tough love” in the courtroom saw her being slapped with a dozen ethics charges and a criminal complaint. But she somehow managed to have the charges dropped. She was, however, later forced to resign but she’s still a practicing attorney in the region today.
Earlier this year, the Glynn County Police Chief and two of his officers were removed from duty after allegations of officers consorting with a drug dealer, having sex with confidential informants, and… nevermind. It’s a pretty long list. You can click all of the links and get the full picture for yourself. There are more stories involving the Glynn County drug task force being caught trading sex with informants in exchange for not throwing them in jail. There are more of these cases, but this article is already growing too long.
The point is, the more we learn about the comings and goings of the Glynn County Police Department, the worse it looks. And these stories do indeed date back much further than the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery and they continue to this day. Something seems to be very wrong in that law enforcement office and some of the citizens they are pledged to protect and serve are more afraid of their own police officers than they are of the criminals.