MCINTOSH CO., GA (WTOC) - Racism, sexism and bigotry found within the McIntosh County Sheriff's Office over the summer is the reason behind an employee shakeup, according to the sheriff.
He says he fired former Sgt. Brant Gaither, after learning he sent racist and sexist Facebook messages to a former Darien police officer, all while using a McIntosh County Sheriff's Office computer in a patrol car.
"We had a bad apple and the bad apple turned sour and it was found and we got rid of it," Sheriff Stephen Jessup says.
In this case, the bad apple Sheriff Jessup is referring to is former Sgt. Gaither, hired seven years ago. Sheriff Jessup said this summer, a sheriff's office employee driving a department vehicle noticed Facebook messages on the department's computer.
"We did a little bit more investigation, went back in time and it's something that started in June of 2016 and stopped sometime in July of 2016," the sheriff explained.
Those messages between former Sgt. Gaither and former Darien Police Officer Jeremy Owens included sharing vulgar pictures including the "n-word," a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. with a racist caption and several other vulgar pictures.
These messages were included in Gaither's personnel file, which was requested and obtained by WTOC.
Possibly most shocking: A typed-out exchange between Gaither and Owens, a statement that appears to target black motorists.
Owens writing, "It's supposed to rain tomorrow. Might not get too many."
Gaither responds, "I hope we get a few but if we don't."
"If they're doing that, that is targeting, and that's one of the reasons we dismissed him. We don't tolerate it," Sheriff Jessup explained.
Sheriff Jessup says "targeting" on I-95 would be very hard when they're tracking speeders.
He said, "Because we're shooting them at 12 and 15 hundred feet and you don't know who they are until you stop them."
I asked whether racism is a problem within his department. He says no.
"If they have any evidence of racism in this department let's see it, I'll do something about it," he added.
The sheriff says on July 25, department officials met with Gaither, who admitted to posting the messages, but said, "it was just a joke, we all do it."
"Racism, sexism, bigotry… and we don't tolerate that here," Sheriff Jessup said.
The department officially fired Gaither on July 25, for violating policies of "unbecoming conduct" and "immoral conduct."
We reached out to Brant Gaither, but he did not want to make a statement. Gaither did request an appeal with the sheriff, but that appeal was denied.
In a letter included in Jeremy Owen's personnel file, he resigned from his position as an officer with the Darien Police Department on July 26.