VARNELL, Ga. — District Attorney Bert Poston says he will not ask the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to look into Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant's handling of a domestic call at the home of then-Varnell City Council member Sheldon Fowler.
"I have advised Terry Miller, the city attorney, that I would not be requesting a GBI investigation because I didn’t see any crime that could be investigated concerning Chief Grant’s actions," Poston said in an email Friday afternoon. "Chief Grant made a discretionary decision about an arrest with which some disagree. That’s a matter between him and his employer, and I can’t make any further comment about it because it pertains to the pending criminal case against Mr. Fowler. The Fowler case is still under review by our office."
Grant's attorney, Marcus Morris, said he expected that was the decision Poston would reach.
"Based on what I knew, and I have spent my career dealing with police officers, the chief had done nothing wrong," Morris said. "I'm glad that the chief's actions have been validated by the district attorney."
The City Council has a called meeting Tuesday at 8 a.m. at City Hall, 1025 Tunnel Hill Varnell Road. The council is scheduled to go into executive session, closed to the public and media, to discuss personnel. Mayor Anthony Hulsey could not be reached immediately Friday afternoon, but council member and Mayor Pro Tem David Owens confirmed the council will be discussing Grant.
Morris confirmed that he and Grant have both been asked to be at that meeting.
On June 29, after an almost three-hour City Council meeting in which Hulsey was not present, Owens used his power as acting mayor to request a GBI investigation and to place Grant on paid administrative leave pending that investigation.
"I expect the chief will be reinstated," Morris said of Tuesday's meeting.
GBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Greg Ramey had previously said, "If there's no crime, we don't investigate. If someone didn't respond appropriately on a case or violated department policy or something like that, that would not be something we would handle."
On June 13 when Grant and Lt. Greg Fowler (no relation to Sheldon Fowler) responded to the domestic call, Sheldon Fowler cursed Grant and poked them in the chest with his finger, according to an incident report filed by Grant. In that report, Grant wrote that "officers were tolerant of his behavior because of his position on the Varnell City Council."
"Officers witnessed Sheldon calling one of his daughters 'a f------ retard' and the other a 'f------ bitch' and several other names aimed at them and his wife as he stood at the top of the stairs in his underware (sic)," the report states. According to the report, the daughters are adults.
In the report, Grant says he spoke to the wife and "was able to get her and the daughters to leave the residence for a while so he would not have anyone to argue with."
Officers were at the home for about an hour and 45 minutes. They did not arrest Fowler. Grant obtained a warrant for Fowler's arrest in Whitfield County Magistrate Court nine days later and two days after some members of the City Council found out about the incident.
Fowler turned himself in on June 27 on charges of simple assault, simple battery against a law enforcement officer and disorderly conduct. He was released that day from the Whitfield County jail on a $2,000 bond. He resigned from the City Council at the June 29 meeting.