After allegedly labeling murder victim Ahmaud Arbery a “criminal” on social media, a Georgia sheriff’s deputy in middle Georgia has been “suspended without pay pending termination.” He is also accused of smugly stating, “he still got the death penalty,” in addition to describing the murdered jogger as a criminal.
The Macon outlet’s Facebook post about the recent sentencing of Arbery’s killers, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan, drew a response from Houston County Deputy Paul Urhahn. “But that criminal Arbery still received the death penalty,” the deputy responded.
The three men were sentenced to life in prison for their involvement in the death of the 25-year-old on Friday, Jan. 7. Both of the McMichaels were sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole, plus an extra 20 years. Bryan, a McMichaels neighbor, was condemned to life in jail with a 30-year parole chance.
“Ahmaud Arbery was then hunted down and shot, and he was killed because individuals here in this courtroom took the law into their own hands,” Judge Timothy Walmsley said in his sentence.
Despite the fact that the comment was deleted, screenshots were posted on social media and eventually reached the Houston County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office initiated an inquiry and decided to suspend Urhahn without pay and pending termination on Monday, Jan. 10.
Sheriff Cullen Talton sent a letter to the deputy describing how he broke numerous of the department’s standards, all of which were related to code of conduct:
– Page 5 (4A) – An officer must at all times, on and off duty, conduct him/herself in a manner which does not bring discredit to the department or county.
– Page 5 (4B) – Conduct unbecoming of an officer shall include that conduct
(2) – Which has a tendency to destroy public respect for employees and confidence in the department.
The backlash to his comments didn’t stop at the department. “That deputy represents that entire department, and for him to say something like that — I’m just… it got under my skin,” activist Eli Porter of the Poor and Minority Justice Association told WGXA.
Porter believes the sheriff’s prompt response sent a strong message to the community, demonstrating that “the sheriff’s office does not stand by what Paul stated.”
Few people have shown support for the sacked cop.
“Exactly the type of person we don’t need to be a Peace Officer not only in our lovely city, but everywhere,” Kimberly Ochelli wrote. He deserved all he got.”
Laurie Hardeman wrote in the comments section, “He deserves to lose his job.” “When a racist reveals his true colors, he or she must realize how dumb they are. It also indicates how he or she was raised, as well as how uneducated their family is.”
Some, though, believed that his right to free expression had been violated.
Will Maddox stated, “The man has a right to his opinion; why should some people be denied their ability to express themselves because they work in specific areas?”
“I don’t know what he said, but what happened to freedom of speech?” Lawana Henrich wondered.
Urhahn has 10 days to file an appeal against the decision. If he does not comply, he will be fired on January 20.