When Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch received a complaint about two of his deputies being rude and disrespectful during a funeral procession, he asked both officers to write out statements.
“There was disrespect shown that day, but it was not shown on the part of my officers. It was shown on the part of Commissioner Tommy Hunter,” said Couch in a statement.
The incident dates back to the Oct. 24 funeral procession for Gwinnett County police officer Antwan Toney, who was killed while investigating a suspicious vehicle Oct. 20 in Snellville.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derreck Booth said 50 deputies volunteered to direct traffic so that Gwinnett County officers could attend Toney’s funeral.
At Ga. 124 and Ga. 20, two deputies blocked the intersection so the procession could proceed when they spotted a pickup truck moving in and out of the procession.
Booth said the driver, later identified as Hunter, asked to turn left on Ga. 124.
“He told deputies he hadn’t intended to get into the procession, and he continued asking to make the turn. The deputies politely told the man he couldn’t turn until the procession had passed. The man identified himself as a county commissioner and became agitated when the deputies returned to attention,” Booth wrote in a news release.
According to one of the officer’s statements, the man in the truck reportedly said in reference to the other officer he “needed to get his a-- back to Hall County.”
The other officer wrote: “I was bothered by the encounter and the obvious lack of respect and reverence for the situation by a supposed commissioner so I googled Gwinnett County Commissioners on my phone. Tommy Hunter’s picture appeared,” and he recognized Hunter as the driver of the truck.
Couch and Hunter spoke later, when Hunter claimed the deputies “were rude and disrespectful to him as a commissioner in his home county and that they should have allowed him to pass,” Booth said.
“He felt, and he conveyed to me when he spoke with me on the phone, that basically he was entitled by his position in his county to be able to travel that roadway that day, but the rest of Gwinnett County citizens were showing their respect,” Couch said in a statement.
Couch contacted Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash as a courtesy regarding the situation.
Couch said the complaint is “unfounded.”
“They were not in fact rude, and they were not disrespectful in any form or fashion that day. In fact, I’ve very proud of them, and I thank all of the deputies who volunteered to go show their honor and respect to Officer Toney, his family and the Gwinnett County Police Department,” Couch said in a statement.
Hunter did not respond to an email sent after hours Friday, Nov. 2.