Lawrenceville, GA – Hall County deputies assisting with a funeral procession for slain Gwinnett County Police Officer Antwan Toney said they were accosted by a county commissioner after they refused to interrupt the somber motorcade to allow him to pass through.
A total of 52 Hall County deputies traveled to Gwinnett County on Oct. 24 to help direct traffic so that Officer Toney’s fellow officers could attend his service, WSB reported.
But while two of the deputies were blocking the intersection of Highway 124 and Highway 20, Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter pulled up and demanded that they move out of his way, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“Why are you blocking my intersection?” he asked them, according to Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch.
The deputies explained that they could not allow him to travel through until the procession had passed, out of respect for Officer Toney, the Gwinnett Daily Post reported.
“While standing at attention, we politely told the gentleman ‘no sir, I’m sorry we can’t let you [through] until the [procession] has passed,’” one of the deputies wrote in his statement to his supervisors. “The man then stated he was the county commissioner and said that ‘the officer worked for me.’”
When the deputies refused to break their stance, Hunter “began getting agitated and asked us what county we were from,” one deputy explained in his statement, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He then took photos of their patrol vehicles.
After Officer Toney’s procession passed, Hunter told one of the deputies to “get his -ss back to Hall County,” then sped away, according to the deputies’ statements.
“He smiled again and gave me a thumbs up sign,” a Hall County sergeant wrote, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post. “It was more than evident he was being sarcastic.”
Sheriff Couch said he subsequently received a phone call from Hunter, during which the commissioner complained that the deputies were “rude and disrespectful to him as a commissioner in his home county.”
Hunter argued that he should have been allowed to proceed through the procession as he deemed fit.
“I was quite shocked by the phone call,” Sheriff Couch said. “We had already been receiving some messages that day from Gwinnett County police officers, the family of the officers and other Gwinnett County residents, citizens of Gwinnett County, saying how proud they were that we showed that respect to their fallen officer.”
Sheriff Couch commended his deputies for handling the situation professionally, and said he was “astounded” by Hunter’s level of disrespect, WSB reported.
“They were, in fact, not rude and they were not disrespectful in any form or fashion that day and in fact I'm very proud of them,” the sheriff said. “There was disrespect shown that day, but it was not shown on the part of my officers.”
Sheriff Couch later contacted Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chair Charlotte Nash, and lodged a complaint of his own, he told WSB.
“I apologized to Sheriff Couch for the incident,” Nash told the news outlet. “I also reiterated how very grateful we were for the tremendous support and commitment of personnel from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office during a very difficult time for Gwinnett.”
Despite the backlash, Hunter offered no apologies for his offensive and entitled behavior.
“Nah, it was nothing,” he said, according to WSB. “It was an emotional day.”
Officer Toney was murdered at around 3 p.m. on Oct. 20, after officers responded to a call of a suspicious vehicle near Shiloh Middle school where the occupants were reported to possibly be smoking marijuana.
Gwinnett County Sergeant Jake Smith told reporters that two officers approached the vehicle without their guns drawn, and suddenly at least one occupant inside of the vehicle shot at them through the vehicle's glass.
Officers returned fire, and the suspect vehicle fled the scene.
The suspect vehicle crashed about 1 mile away and the occupants fled on foot.
Officer Toney was transported to the hospital in critical condition. He later succumbed to his injuries, according to Sergeant Smith.
Officer Toney was killed just six days before his three-year anniversary with the department. He was unmarried, and his family lives out of state.
His killer, 18-year-old Tafahree Maynard, was later shot and killed by police after he refused to surrender and threatened officers with a lawn mower blade following an extensive manhunt, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.