In the Loop

  • 'Run It Up' Podcast: Podcasting in Athens, Taylor Saulters


    Taylor Saulters

    In "Run It Up," Flagpole's new podcast, we take a deeper look at some of the stories from the current issue. In this week's Very Meta Episode, writer, podcaster and The Rook and Pawn co-owner Tim Kelly joins Gabe Vodicka to talk about the recent boom in Athens podcasting. Plus, Blake Aued breaks down Athens-Clarke County's controversial settlement with former ACCPD officer Taylor Saulters.


  • Athens Republicans Vote for Abortion Bill, Against Hate Crimes Bill

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    Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville).

    Oconee County’s two representatives in the Georgia General Assembly cast their votes late Thursday night with the House majority in favor of a bill that prohibits most abortions after a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the womb and with the minority against a hate crimes bill.

    House Bill 481, officially called the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, passed narrowly at 10:45 p.m. on Thursday with 93 representatives, almost all Republicans, voting in favor, and 73 voting against.

    The bill required 91 votes for passages in the 180-seat House of Representatives, where Oconee County’s Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower are joined by 105 other Republicans.

    House Bill 426, which would amend existing Georgia Code to provide criteria for imposition of punishment for defendants who select their victims based upon certain biases or prejudices, also passed narrowly with 96 voting in favor and 64 voting against.


  • Voucher, Bail, Home Design Bills Don't Make It Past Legislature's Crossover Day


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    Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens).

    The Senate voted down a bill last week creating a voucher program for private-school students when several Republicans either sat it out or crossed party lines, and a rumored revote never came to pass. SB 173 is most likely dead for the session, along with the similar House Bill 301.

    Crossover Day—the last day for a bill to pass either the House or the Senate and be eligible to pass in the other—came and went Thursday without a vote on HB 301 or HB 340, which would have restricted local governments’ ability to reform the cash bail system. SB 164, another bill aimed at bail reform sponsored by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) died as well.

    HB 302, prohibiting local governments from regulating the design of houses, appeared to be on the fast track after passing out of committee, but also did not come up for a vote. However, all of these bills could be resurrected by attaching their language to bills on similar topics that did make it through Crossover Day. And they will get another chance next year.


  • Weapon Man Pointed at Police Before Being Shot Was Air Pistol


    Photo Credit: Blake Aued

    Chief Cleveland Spruill briefs reporters on Sunday. Behind him is a photo of the airsoft gun Thomas Swinford brandished at police.

    The weapon a man pointed at police officers before they shot and killed him Friday was an airsoft gun, authorities said Sunday.

    While the investigation is ongoing, Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Cleveland Spruill released more details on Sunday.

    Friday evening police, initially responded to a call that Thomas Wayne Swinford, 34, of Grovetown, who was in Athens visiting relatives, was "behaving erratically" and was suspected of stealing a vehicle. After speaking to him initially and noticing that he had what appeared to be a gun, officers realized he had "an extensive criminal record," Spruill said. Possessing a gun is illegal for a convicted felon, so they returned to the home to speak to him again.


  • Police Identify Man They Shot and Officers Involved

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    Athens-Clarke County police identified the man officers shot and killed off Westlake Drive on Friday as Thomas Wayne Swinford, 34.

    Swinford's last known address was in Grovetown, in the Augusta area, police said today, but Chief Cleveland Spruill told Flagpole Friday night that he also had connections to Athens.

    According to police, officers responded at about 6:30 p.m. Friday to call about a man with what is believed to be a firearm. After spending approximately 10–15 minutes telling him to put the gun down, Swinford charged at police, and the officers opened fire.


  • Athens Police Shoot and Kill Man Near Beechwood


    Photo Credit: Blake Aued

    The crime scene on Westlake Drive.

    Athens-Clarke County police shot and killed a man they "believed to be armed with a weapon" during a confrontation off Westlake Drive at about 6:30 p.m.

    According to a news release from ACCP issued at 10 p.m.:

    ACCPD officers encountered an adult white male who brandished what is believed to be a firearm in a threatening manner. Officers issued verbal commands for the individual to drop the firearm. The individual disregarded the officers’ command and charged the officers with the firearm in his hand pointed in the officer’s direction. Multiple officers, fearing for their lives and safety, discharged their firearms. After the shooting, officers immediately rendered first aid and the individual was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.


  • Girtz Releases Statement on Saulters Settlement

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    Mayor Kelly Girtz released a statement this afternoon on the settlement with former Athens-Clarke County police officer Taylor Saulters saying that he and commissioners wanted to put the incident behind them and move forward with new law enforcement and diversity initiatives.

    "Like we have done with past circumstances involving members of the community and members of our Police Department, we evaluated this situation based on its own unique facts and circumstances," Girtz said. "We, the Mayor and Commission of Athens-Clarke County, have made this decision in order to avoid prolonging the pain and expense of continued litigation, and further place our energy moving forward into ensuring that safe, dignified lives can be lived throughout our community."


  • Student Senators Urge UGA to Honor Slaves



    Photo Credit: Savannah Cole/file

    Protesters gather around UGA Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Michelle Cook as she speaks at the Baldwin Hall memorial dedication in November.

    A Student Government Association resolution urging the University of Georgia to build a monument on North Campus to all enslaved people at the University of Georgia and to dedicate the Chapel Bell to two enslaved men who were utilized as bell ringers on campus passed 32-3 Tuesday night.

    “Many community members and students do not feel as though the University of Georgia adequately, publicly acknowledged its past entanglement with slavery, nor acknowledged the substantial contributions that enslaved peoples made towards the establishment and success of the University,” the SGA resolution states.

    For senators like Jessica Douglas, who introduced the resolution, memorials at Baldwin Halland Oconee Hill Cemetery are not enough.

    “There’s this conception that because a memorial was placed at Baldwin Hall that we’ve sort of checked the box and that that’s all we really need to do. I want to continue the conversation and grappling with our legacy of slavery,” Douglas said.


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