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Hall man charged after shots fired at utility workers
Donald Josh Deal
Donald Josh Deal

A Hall County man is in jail after sheriff’s officials say he opened fire on utility workers trying to restore power near his home early Wednesday.

According to Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Donald Josh Deal, 62, fired “at least two shots” in the direction of a Jackson Electric Membership Corp. crew, which responded to a downed tree on a power line in the 4200 block of Holland Drive off Browns Bridge Road around midnight on Wednesday.

The crew members said while they were assessing the power line problem outside of a home, Deal stepped outside and began cursing and threatening them with a 9 mm handgun before shots were fired, according to the sheriff’s office. No one was injured. The utility workers left the area and called 911.

Deal then retreated into his residence and refused to exit when deputies arrived. The SWAT team was called in and Deal “voluntarily exited his residence and was taken into custody without further incident” around 2 a.m. He is being held in Hall County Jail on two counts of aggravated assault.

“These are guys that are out here working hard trying to restore power to residents, doing a good thing, doing a good job, and for them to be assaulted in this manner causes us a great deal of concern,” Wilbanks said.

According to Wilbanks, Deal “appeared to be highly intoxicated” when deputies arrived and investigators are still unsure of the motivation.

“The investigation is still ongoing. Investigators will probably try to follow up with him later on now that he’s had an opportunity to be a little more coherent.”

Wilbanks said Deal knew the men were with the utility company.

“It was not a case where he was mistakenly thinking there was prowler or something of that nature out there,” Wilbanks said.

Jackson EMC officials declined to say much about the incident, but did say it is “very uncommon for our crews to be fired on.”

“It would be difficult to comment without knowing exactly what prompted the customer to do that,” said Bonnie Jones, a spokeswoman for Jackson EMC.

Jones said during her 12 years with the electrical company, nothing like this has happened.

When the call came into the sheriff’s office, Wilbanks said the preliminary fear was a local copycat of the Christmas Eve shooting that left two volunteer firefighters dead in Webster, N.Y.

Early Monday morning, William Spengler opened fire on four firefighters after they responded to a fire set by Spengler. Two firefighters died on the scene.

Deal is listed as retired and had prior arrests, according to the sheriff’s office, but specific information was not available.

Some neighbors said Deal has been known to “start trouble sometimes,” including making threats of gun violence. But most say Deal generally keeps to himself.

Deal’s first court appearance will be today, during a conference call with the magistrate court, which will set his bond.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.