MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Longtime Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee held nothing back from the public during a Monday night NAACP meeting in which he and Maj. Scott Deason responded to a number of questions concerning the recent deputy-involved shooting that left an 18-year-old Milledgeville man wounded.

The meeting, held at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in the Harrisburg neighborhood, lasted a little more than an hour, and drew dozens of local residents, including several elected officials, as well as a local political candidate seeking office. Nearly half of the meeting focused on addressing audience questions while the other half dealt with comments from those who attended, including several deputies and detectives from the local sheriff’s office.

The meeting came a week after Jamel Jackson was shot in the left upper arm by Deputy Charles Gillis following a domestic disturbance at an apartment that Jackson shared with his mother Gloria at West 49 Apartments near Milledgeville. Jamel Jackson reportedly hit his mother in the face and held her down for a period of time during the Oct. 9 incident before the victim managed to get free and telephone 911 for help.

While Jackson continues recovering from the gunshot wound in the county jail following his arrest on misdemeanor charges of battery under the Georgia Family Violence Act and obstruction of a law enforcement officer, Gillis remains on administrative leave with pay pending completion of the investigation by Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent David Peebles.

Massee requested the assistance of special agents with the GBI Region 6 Office in Milledgeville to conduct an independent probe of what happened. He reiterated at the meeting what he told The Union-Recorder in an interview last week.

“I’m sorry this incident ever occurred,” Massee said.

The sheriff said he had informed the GBI that he wanted the agency to be as open as possible about what happened in the incident.

“I told them (GBI), I said, look, don’t tell people they’ve got to get Open Records requests; don’t tell people the investigation isn’t over; I said as soon as y’all start getting initial findings, you give it out,” Massee said. “You give the videos, you give whatever you’ve got. We don’t have anything to hide. The public can look at it. It’s still an active investigation.”

Cynthia Ward-Edwards, who serves as president of the Baldwin County Branch of the NAACP, welcomed those in attendance. She who worked for Massee while attending college, and introduced him as the night’s guest speaker.

“I’m sure everybody knows Mr. Bill,” Ward-Edwards said. “I worked for him when I was in college a long time ago, so I’ve been knowing him a long time. He’s been in the community a long time fighting crime. He’s been around a long time doing some good things.”

Ward-Edwards said she reached out to Massee to talk to the group and others about what happened.

She said Massee’s response to her invitation to speak publicly about the incident was met with certainty from the sheriff, who said he, nor any of his staf,f had anything to hide from anyone about what happened.

Massee, along with Maj. Deason, answered a host of questions from the crowd.

One of the first questions came from Ward-Edwards.

She asked the sheriff what constituted the necessity to use excessive force.

“Well, you try not to use any more excessive force than you have to utilize when you affect an arrest,” Massee said, noting that in many instances, it’s nothing more than a deputy telling an individual he or she is under an arrest. “Sometimes we have to fight, and sometimes we have to chase people. In this circumstance, the individual was not compliant. So, a decision was made to utilize to use a Taser.”

Ward-Edwards also asked how could someone mistake a gun for a Taser.

“Well, I’m sorry this happened to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, but I don’t think this is the  first time that this has occurred where someone has grabbed his firearm as opposed to a Taser,” Massee said. “People wear the Taser on what we called the off-hand side and wear their weapon on the good side. We do that, to be real honest with you, we do that so people won’t do what this deputy did and that is to grab his firearm. That is not what happened in this circumstance. The deputy did not go to his weak side hand. He pulled his service weapon and thought he was shooting a Taser and shot him (with his gun).”

Local pastor, the Rev. Gregory Ellison said he, too, was sorry this incident ever happened in the community.

“I know that we’re living in a town where we have a good sheriff, I feel, and there’s so much we’re hearing coast to coast; we just want to make sure that the citizens of Baldwin County can feel comfortable — that the citizens of Baldwin County don’t have to ask questions about certain things coming into this county,” Ellison said.

Personally speaking, Ellison told Massee that he had done “a great job” in looking out for the safety of all people in Baldwin County through the years that he has served as sheriff.

“But that incident that happened, it just got my attention,” Ellison said. “And I was concerned; and I felt that the community should hear from you concerning (this matter).”

Massee quickly replied.

“My answer to you is, I can assure you that I am more concerned about it than you are,” Massee said. “Our employees are more concerned about it than you are. We have never had an incident like this occur with us, ever.”

The sheriff said it was easy for him to tell others that someone shot at a deputy and the deputy returned fire.

“And I hate to see it, but that we killed him,” Massee said. “I’ve had a deputy sheriff killed on the other side of it. But I’m going to be very honest with you, I’ve never been in the ground where I’ve had to say, look we’re getting an investigation I don’t know what happened. They say it’s a mistake. I’m not going to lie to you, we don’t like to be in this position, especially in a world that we live in.”

The sheriff pointed out that Baldwin County is a good community.

“I’m going to tell you that the Ferguson issues [in Missouri] that we have in the world is just when they wouldn’t talk with anybody,” Massee recalled. “I sat at my house and they wouldn’t even mention the name of the policeman that shot this man. The town (Ferguson) is about 1,000 people. Don’t you know everybody, every school child, and everybody in the world knew who it was?”

Massee said he thought such was ridiculous at the time.

“And I said if anything does happen with us, the last thing we’re going to do is act like people don’t know what we’re doing,” Massee said. “We’re going to tell them.”

The sheriff said he told the GBI that everything was going to be released about the shooting or he would release it himself.

“I know y’all are working the investigation, but we ain’t not going to be transparent,” Massee stressed.

Another question dealt with demonstrating how a Taser works.

Maj. Deason illustrated it for the audience.

“As Sheriff Massee alluded to before, we keep our firearm on whatever strong side, and I happened to be right-handed, if I was left-handed, obviously it would be on this side,” Deason said. “My off-hand is on the left side. We instruct our people who are certified to carry a Taser and they only carry it after they’ve been certified and we recertify every year.”

Floyd L. Griffin Jr., an Army veteran and retiree, along with having been a former state senator and former mayor of Milledgeville, stood up and praised Massee’s service and that of his deputies to the people of Milledgeville and Baldwin County.

Griffin asked if he and others could be shown a Taser, as well as a weapon.

“I prefer not to pull my weapon out of its holster because it’s loaded,” Deason said.

Instead he removed the cartridge out of his Taser and showed it.

Deason is a certified Taser instructor.

“When we cut these on, the sheriff spends $500 more per Taser, because when we cut them on, it’s got audio and video every time,” Deason said. “Right now, it’s picking up my voice and it’s showing the floor. So anytime we activate this device, audio and video comes on. It was just something we knew was the right thing to do. Everybody needs to police themselves, we believe. And as the sheriff said be transparent.”

Griffin also asked if he could tell the difference between his Taser and his weapon under what he called normal circumstances, not under duress.

“I can tell the difference between my sidearm or my firearm holding it in my hand and my Taser under normal circumstances,” Deason said.

The high ranking deputy said he wasn’t there last week when the shooting happened.

Griffin told Massee that everyone had heard him say the incident last week was an accident, and that he believed him.

“We all make mistakes,” Griffin said. “I would ask you if you are going to let us know tonight that you’re going to deal with this situation in a professional and honorable position based on the circumstances that happened.”

Massee again wasted no time responding.

“We will treat it professionally, as soon as we have an answer, not only from the independent investigation with the GBI, but with our district attorney,” Massee said. “And I will tell y’all this, I’ve had some issues that have occurred with other employees. Some results have ended up being negative. We’ve had to address some issues. It’s not the first time I’ve face a hard issue; it’s the first time I’ve faced an issue like this. This is an unusual circumstance. I’m not used to being in this position.”

Ellison said no one was there to try the matter.

“I personally wanted to be here to hear what Mr. Massee had to say,” Ellison said. “For him to release video so early, I have to believe and commend him for doing so because that’s kind of unusual. It’s very unusual so I have to accept that he’s concerned, and he cares. He just let us know that this is his first time dealing with a situation like this and there’s always a first time. But for him to release those videos so early — that’s why I wanted this meeting — that’s why I wanted to be here to hear what our sheriff had to say. He has said that this is still an ongoing investigation. So that simply means when you try to get into the details of the case he’s limited to that.”

The pastor said he appreciated Massee accepting the invitation to come to the meeting and answer as many questions as he had done.

“I felt he owed it to the community,” Ellison said. “I felt we wanted to hear from our sheriff and see what he had to say about this.”

Massee said when he first got to the scene of the shooting, he told members of his command staff that they couldn’t work the shooting investigation and that would need to have the GBI work it.

“Immediately, we said, look and when I say this, I’m not being smart, it is what it is,” Massee said. “We ain’t going to wait two months to get an answer and the public wonder what we’re doing. We’re going to find out what happened.”

Calvin Hill wanted to know if anyone there had watched the videos of the shooting. Several people indicated they had seen them.

“I watched it two or three times,” Hill said. “I want to know who that female deputy is.”

Hill was referring to Deputy Sgt. Melissa Condon, who also attended the NAACP meeting.

“I just want to commend her,” Hill said. “She did an outstanding job. She handled everything like you’re supposed to and notified the people that she was supposed to and calmed the situation down.”

She also helped render first aide to Jackson following the shooting.

“It’s a shame that somebody got shot and that things happen like that,” Hill said.

Several in the crowd applauded Condon in how she handled matters on the afternoon of the shooting incident.

Clarence Hall said he sympathizes that a mistake was made, but justice for the community was now needed.

“We need justice for the community,” Hall said.

Detective Chuck Downing, who works at the sheriff’s office, stood up and talked, too.

“I’m going to tell y’all something, that man right there is the most fairest man I’ve ever seen,” Downing said. “He is going to do what’s right. Once this investigation is over, he’s going to make a fair decision.”

Downing said he just prayed to God that everyone would understand that what happened wasn’t a racial issue.

“It’s not racial,” Downing said, noting the guy he felt most sorry for was Deputy Gillis. “He’s one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. I feel sorry for him. It was just a human mistake.”

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