When news spread after the holidays that Richmond County Deputy Austin Shepherd, the county’s 2013 Deputy of the Year, had been fired, folks around town were floored.
According to a statement released last week by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, an internal investigation is underway regarding past conduct of Shepherd.
“During the course of the investigation, information surfaced that prior to this administration, Deputy Shepherd engaged in activities that may be considered a violation of his oath of office,” the Dec. 31 press release stated. “As such, Deputy Shepherd was terminated effective this date. The case is still under investigation and no further information is available pending its conclusion or the termination appeal process.”
There has been a lot of rumors as to why Shepherd was fired. The Insider won’t speculate on these rumors because some of them are very damaging, but, needless to say, his sudden termination speaks volumes.
But the reason why so many Augustans are stunned by the news is the manner in which Shepherd carried himself.
In September, when Shepherd was named employee of the month and honored by Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver and the Augusta Commission, the chambers was filled with several deputies supporting Shepherd.
Before the presentation, one deputy told a commissioner, “You won’t believe this guy. He’s incredible. Just a really good guy.”
Then the mayor told the audience the story as to why Shepherd was chosen as employee of the month.
Apparently, Shepherd was patrolling the area of the 3100 block of Washington Road on Sept. 11, when he encountered a homeless family, a couple and their two kids, who had been living out of their car for about seven days.
Shepherd further discovered that the wife was an Army veteran who suffered from mental issues causing erratic behavior.
During one of the wife’s episodes, she had allegedly abandoned her husband and their 8-year-old son and left in their vehicle with their 2-year-old daughter. Shepherd also found that the wife had destroyed all the clothing belonging to the 8-year-old because she said “someone had put tracking devices in them.”
Clearly, the wife was very distraught. When Shepherd located the couple’s vehicle and approached the wife, she exited the vehicle and allegedly begged Shepherd to shoot her.
Shepherd was able to calm the wife down and take her into custody without incident. She was later transported to the hospital for an emergency evaluation.
It is a compelling story, but it is Shepherd’s actions after the incident that really seemed to show the quality of his charter.
After the call, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office stated that Shepherd informed his wife of the events. Both moved by the family’s sad story, the Shepherds purchased clothes for the 8-year-old and Deputy Shepherd raised $140 through donations provided by fellow officers to help the family.
But it didn’t stop there. The deputy also arranged a room for the family at a reduced rate at a local motel managed by a friend.
After the mayor’s presentation, Shepherd was handed the microphone to say a few words. He thanked the mayor, the commission, the sheriff and his fellow deputies for their support, but then there was a moment that caught everyone in the room off guard.
He turned to thank his parents who were seated in the back of room next to his wife and small children.
As he started to thank them, his voice began to tremble and he had to pause for several seconds as tears swelled up in his eyes.
It was emotional to see, even for those who had just met Shepherd that day.
One thing is for sure, either Shepherd is the greatest actor alive or he is a good person who apparently took a very wrong turn.
Either way, Augustans will have to wait and see what the sheriff’s investigation uncovers.