Dawson Mayor Chris Wright, shown in this file photo, said in his first interview since being shot in his home on Oct. 31 that he believes the assault on him was politically motivated. On Thursday, the Dawson City Council voted against providing Wright with police protection. (Albany Herald file photo)
DAWSON — In his first public statement since being shot five times on Halloween night, Dawson Mayor Chris Wright told The Albany Herald on Thursday that he believes the attack was politically motivated.
Wright called The Herald Thursday afternoon to report that the Dawson City Council had voted 4-2 earlier in the day during a called meeting to deny him protection by the Dawson Police Department.
“I believe the shooting was politically motivated, and that vote (by the council) proved it,” Wright, who said he is still wheelchair-bound, said. “The Albany Police Department had no problem with providing security while I was in the hospital there, but I can’t get the same protection in my own city.”
Albany attorney Tommy Coleman, who serves as Dawson’s city attorney, confirmed Thursday that the Dawson City Council had voted to deny special protection for Wright. Coleman said council members Charlie Sanders, Calvin Stephens, George Wilson and Sam Ward had voted to deny the protection.
Councilmen Artie Gardner and John Harris voted to provide the protection.
“I didn’t tell (the council) they couldn’t vote (to provide protection), but I gave them options,” Coleman said. “I looked at state law, and my conclusion was that (a government agency in the state) can provide security for an individual if it’s for a public purpose.
“It looks to me that if the city were to undertake this, it might open us up to potential liability.”
Gardner, who serves as the chief of the Smithville Police Department in Lee County, said Thursday he was “very perturbed” by the outcome of the vote.
“This meeting today was not about the mayor of Dawson, it was about Chris Wright,” Gardner said. “This man has been in a hospital fighting for his life after being shot. We still don’t know who did it, but we don’t have enough respect for the position of mayor to protect the man who’s in the office. It doesn’t matter who the individual is, it’s a shame we don’t have more respect for the office.
Gardner also contended that the city’s operation was being influenced by former mayor Robert Albritten, who he charged was “still running the city of Dawson.” Wright defeated Albritten in the last mayoral election.
Albritten, who owns and manages Albritten Funeral Service in Dawson, said Gardner’s claim was ridiculous.
“I lost the election, I’m not in office now,” the former mayor, who served the city for 32 consecutive years before being ousted by Wright, said. “The only thing I have to do with the city of Dawson is paying my taxes on Dec. 20. If I were running the city, I’d be in office. I have nothing to do with what’s going on in the mayor’s office. If I did, I’d be in that office.”
A message left for Dawson City Manager Barney Parnacott seeking comment for this article was not returned by The Herald’s press time.
Wright said he is still on the mend, but that he expects to be back in the mayor’s office soon.
“I’m trying to hold on right now,” he said. “I’ve still got a ways to go before my body catches up with my mind. My prognosis is good, and I’m looking forward to getting back to work.”
GBI officials said Wright was shot multiple times at his Crawford Street home around 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 31. He was taken to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, where he would undergo surgery.
Wright said Thursday he is staying now at an undisclosed location.
Law enforcement officials initially reported that a “home-invasion robbery” was the motive behind the shooting, but officials with the Georgia Conference of Black Mayors and the Dawson NAACP have said they too feel the attack was politically motivated.