• 2 DeKalb sheriff's employees under investigation in recruit death

    Updated:

    Two DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office employees’ police files are now under review after a Channel 2 Action News investigation.

    According to Georgia’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) records, Sgt. Larresia Turner (Jackson) and Maj. Laura Rosco’s law enforcement files are now under review.

    According to POST officials, this is to determine Roscoe and Turner’s involvement in the circumstances that resulted in the May 2013 death of DeKalb jailor recruit George Ward.

    Channel 2 first investigated Ward’s death after receiving numerous tips from DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office insiders, who were concerned about the circumstances of his death.

    Ward died after his second day of training with the sheriff’s office.

    Video obtained by Channel 2 investigators showed Roscoe and Turner leading recruits in physical training. It also showed drill instructors giving Ward a bright pink hat and shirt after he vomited in a trash can.

    After he put on the clothing, he was pulled away from the group, where instructors appeared to push him harder.

    "My son was humiliated right before he died?" asked Lorraine Fredericks, Ward’s mother. Fredericks saw her son’s final hours only after Channel 2 obtained the DeKalb County sheriff’s footage.

    Later that morning, Ward became unresponsive. Witnesses said drill instructors did not take Ward’s signs of distress seriously.

    According to medical records, Ward had a temperature of 107 degrees when he arrived at the emergency room.

    Fredericks said she never received answers from the sheriff’s office about her son’s death. She said Ward had only been in Atlanta for a week before he started his job with the county.

    An attorney representing the family sent a letter to DeKalb officials, letting them know they may sue and seek $10 million in damages for Ward’s death. 

    “This man needed help and he wasn’t given the help, he was given the opposite. They had every reason to cover it up because what they did is just wrong," said Charles Cauble, Fredericks’ attorney. "The facts were misrepresented to her. That wasn't fair to her and won’t be fair to any parent that is dealing with and grieving the loss of a child."

    The DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s office originally ruled Ward’s death was due to natural causes.

    They ultimately changed his cause of death to “undetermined” after Channel 2 investigators showed Chief Medical Examiner Gerald Gowitt video of Ward training the day before his death.

    Gowitt said the sheriff’s office had not previously given the medical examiner’s office the video.

    “I can understand why you have questions. I hope you understand that people can look at this and have different opinions,” Gowitt told Byfield.  “There are always controversial deaths, Ms. Byfield, that nobody agrees on.” 

    The DeKalb Sheriff’s Office did not provide Channel 2 with any witness statements or investigative records.

    Thomas Brown was the sheriff when Ward was a recruit, but the current DeKalb County Sheriff, Jeffery Mann, was second in command at the time. Mann declined to answer questions about Ward’s death, but released a statement:

    “We continue to grieve the tragic loss last year of recruit George Ward, and our sympathies are with his family. However, we can see no constructive purpose in re-opening the wounds by participating in a discussion of this unfortunate incident in the news media.”

    Ultimately, Mann asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate Ward’s death. They closed their investigation last December.

    "When we were requested to do the investigation, one of the things that we decided was that we were going to make this case a priority," said GBI Spokeswoman Sherry Lang.

    The GBI has since handed their findings to POST, the DeKalb Sheriff, and DeKalb County’s district attorney.

    Lang described her agency's investigation into Ward's death as "swift" and "thorough.”

    A spokesperson for the district attorney's office said their staffers will now review the file and, if needed, conduct a supplementary investigation to determine if anyone should face criminal charges.

    The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on POST’s investigation.

    An attorney representing Ward’s mother sent Channel 2 Action News at statement in response to the POST investigation: “Mr. Ward's family is pleased to learn that the Georgia Peace Officer Standard and Training Council will be launching an investigation surrounding the events that led to the untimely death of Mr. George Ward. However, such news comes bitter sweet considering almost two years has passed before any law enforcement agency took any initiative to find out what really happen to George.”

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