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Dougherty resident: Old Pretoria Road cemetery scene of parties

ALBANY — A rave among the graves was not a hit for a Dougherty County resident as a recent party at a cemetery here brought loud music and on one occasion a trespasser who charged into his yard.

Ricky Jackson voiced his concerns about the gatherings at Floral Memory Gardens and a vacant house next to his residence during a Monday Dougherty County Commission meeting.

“For 25 years I’ve been a resident of Dougherty County,” Jackson, who lives near the cemetery, said. “For roughly seven years or so, we’ve had a lot of problems with crime going on.”

The 120 Pretoria Road cemetery has trees and shrubbery that make it easy for people to conceal themselves near his residence, Jackson told commissioners.

“Ten o’clock at night, a party was going on in the cemetery,” he said. “Roughly a month ago, I was sitting on my patio and someone was running at us in a very threatening manner. There are seven- or eight-foot-high bushes. He came directly from there and ran at me.”

Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas asked County Administrator Michael McCoy to speak with the Dougherty County Police Department about the issues. The police can provide special patrols in the area and perhaps speak to the owner of the cemetery, Cohilas said.

He also suggested having police speak with the owner of the cemetery.

“I know, for me, it was just surprising,” Commissioner Victor Edwards said. “There was a party at a cemetery? Who would be hanging out at the cemetery?”

On another crime-related topic, Joe Chesnut, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Regional Drug Enforcement Office, gave an update to commissioners. The office moved from Worth County to Dougherty County last year.

The GBI agents and agents assigned to the office by other nearby law enforcement agencies initiated more than 188 cases from July 1, 2019, through August, Chesnutt said, and made more than 100 arrests.

In addition, it seized some $5.4 million in contraband, including illegal drugs and property confiscated, he said.

About 32 percent of cases originated in Dougherty County, Chesnutt said. He his goal is for 32 percent or more of cases to originate in the county, which has the largest population in the 41 counties covered.

“Dougherty County is where our office is,” he said. “Dougherty County has made an investment in us, and we will continue working toward that goal.”

Referencing the 14 homicides so far this year, already four more than the 2019 total of 10, and a rash of recent shootings on Albany streets, Commissioner Anthony Jones said it is time for residents to get angry and start helping law enforcement.

“The young folks are mad in this community,” he said. “Why are they mad? Some say it’s drugs, some say it’s money.

“When will Dougherty County get mad enough to get fed up? When will this community stand with law enforcement and say we’re not going to take it, we’re going to take our community back? We’ve got to do something. So what can we do as a community to help stop this foolishness?”

Cohilas, a former criminal prosecutor, said that in the past a multijurisdictional group tackled gang activity, knocking on doors and arresting multiple gang members in their homes.

“We had done that in the past and done that very successfully,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has halted criminal trials, which officials say allow accused criminals to get out of jail on bond and return to criminal activity.

“The pace of judicial cases has been beyond slowed down, it’s been brought to a halt,” Cohilas said. “That has a ripple effect.”


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State issues rules for home delivery of booze

ATLANTA — Georgians are one step closer to being able to order home deliveries of beer, wine and distilled spirits.

The state Department of Revenue has issued rules governing home deliveries of alcohol based on legislation the General Assembly passed in June.

Interested liquor stores, supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants will have to demonstrate to the Revenue department they can meet the requirements of the new rules and gain the agency’s approval before they can begin offering home deliveries.

The revenue department has published an extensive set of rules governing home deliveries of adult beverages, including the agency’s enforcement powers and requirements for delivery drivers.

“The Department of Revenue has done an outstanding job putting together regulations that prioritize the safe sale, secure transportation and timely delivery of alcohol to residents who are over the age of 21 throughout the state,” said KC Honeyman, executive director of the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of Georgia.

The bill, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed last month, gives local governments the ability to opt out of home deliveries if they choose.

As the legislation went through the General Assembly, supporters argued legalizing home delivery of alcoholic beverages was particularly timely in the midst of a global pandemic that kept wary Georgians sticking close to home.

The bill also expands the current state law allowing tastings of beer, wine and sprits from just wineries and distilleries to package stores.

Another provision broadens the so-called “Sunday brunch” law the General Assembly passed in 2018 allowing restaurants, hotels and wineries to serve alcoholic beverages on premises starting at 11 a.m. on Sundays. The new law sets the same Sunday hours for sales of liquor by grocery stores for off-premises consumption.


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Dougherty Commission boosts elections office, funds ballot drop boxes

ALBANY — Dougherty County voters will have three additional locations to drop off absentee ballots with the approval on Monday of the drop boxes and additional staffing for the Voter Registration and Elections Office.

The Dougherty County Commission approved the $158,000 package that includes two full-time employees, extra money for a busy election year and three drop ballot drop boxes by a 5-1 vote after lengthy discussion on the issue.

Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson requested that the two additional full-time staff members be included in the 2020-2021 county budget.

Commissioners did not fund the positions while preparing this year’s budget, which was relatively frugal due to the expected impact on sales tax revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commissioners were in agreement on the two new employees, at a cost of $112,000, and $20,000 in additional money to hire temporary poll workers for the election, but not on the drop boxes.

Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas suggested funding drop boxes at only two locations — Tallulah Massey Library and Southside Library, but not the third at the Northwest Library branch — while Commissioner Russell Gray was against the drop boxes altogether.

“Every individual has a drop box located outside their house,” Gray said, referring to the U.S. Postal Service. He who cast the lone vote against the measure. “I don’t think we should be spending money we don’t necessarily have on things we don’t necessarily need. This is another unfunded mandate.”

There has been discussion that mail delivery times are slower than usual, so individuals should know to take the responsibility to mail ballots earlier, he said.

Commissioner Gloria Gaines said she agreed with Gray up to a point but noted, “It’s also incumbent on the federal government to instill confidence in our ballot getting where it’s supposed to go in a timely manner.”

Cohilas suggested eliminating the drop box at the Northwest Library location, which would still keep those at the other libraries and outside the Government Center building downtown. However, his motion to that effect did not pass.

“I’m looking at it through a different lens,” he said. “I’m frustrated in that we have, I would say, one of the best-served communities in terms of voting (with) 28 voting precincts. (But) we have some precincts where less than 50 people vote.

“I think the drop boxes are a good idea. I think three is excessive.”


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Albany man shot while driving to convenience store

ALBANY — The gun-related violence that has spread in this southwest Georgia community like a plague continued early Monday morning when a 25-year-old Albany man was shot several times while driving in his vehicle.

A news release by the Albany Police Department indicated that Deion Coleman, 25, was shot in the buttocks, the leg and the groin area at around 12:14 Monday morning as he drove in his vehicle to make a purchase at a convenience store.

APD Officer Alexander Price said in his report of the incident that he discovered Price on the ground near his apartment at 1013 Cedar Ave. after receiving a report of gunshots at the location.

“I responded in emergency mode to 1013 Cedar Ave. (Cedar Apartments) in reference to a shooting,” Alexander wrote in his report. “Upon arrival, I observed a black male subject laying on the ground east of a tan Buick Century displaying Georgia tag RXB2510. The black male subject was later identified as Deion Coleman. I observed (Coleman) wearing black and blue gym shorts and no shirt. I was advised by several individuals that Deion had been shot in his butt.

“(EMS) Med 4 and Med 1 responded to the scene. Med 4 transported (Coleman) to Phoebe Main. Several shell casings were discovered near the entrance/exit of the (apartment) parking lot.”

Witnesses at the scene told police they saw a black four-door vehicle stopped near the entrance/exit to the apartment complex shortly before leaving the scene traveling east on Cedar Avenue. The witness said the car had LED lights.

Alexander said in his report that Coleman’s girlfriend and a neighbor pulled the injured Coleman out of his vehicle onto the ground.

“Contact was made with (Coleman’s) girlfriend (Delyncia Porter) at the hospital,” Alexander wrote. “Porter advised she was in their apartment talking on the phone with a friend when she heard multiple gunshots. Porter advised she ran downstairs and looked out of the window and observed (Coleman’s) car going in reverse in the grass on the west side of the parking lot. Porter (said) she ran outside to his car and he asked her to pull him out. Porter stated her and a neighbor pulled (Coleman) out of the car.”

Coleman told police he was going to the store when he observed a black vehicle backed into a parking space with its lights on. He said he was driving past the car when an unknown black male jumped out of the front passenger side wearing a black hoodie tied around his face and black shorts. Coleman said when the suspect began shooting at him, he put his car in reverse but he was struck by bullets several times. He told police he could not stop his vehicle because he couldn’t feel his legs.

“I asked (Coleman) has he had any type of altercation with anyone in the past, (and he said) no,” Alexander wrote. “However, he stated his little brother (Craig Coleman) has been sleeping on his porch from time to time. (Coleman said he wasn’t) sure if the unknown black males were looking for his brother due to his brother probably being involved with any gang activity lately.”

Coleman said he had not seen the black vehicle in the neighborhood before.

Alexander said he observed three gunshot wounds in Coleman’s buttocks, a wound in his left leg, a wound on the left side of his waist and a wound in the groin area.

The case has been turned over to APD’s Investigations Unit.