VPD announces 'flag' news conference

VPD announces 'flag' news conference
Brian Childress
Brian Childress

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress and VSU officials held a joint press conference at 4 p.m. Thursday outside the VSU Police Department to address concerns regarding safety ahead of Friday's flag rally.

At the press conference, VSU President, Dr. William McKinney, announced that all campus operations, including classes, would be suspended Friday as a result of the rally.

As of Thursday evening, there were safety concerns regarding the rally after a controversial protest on Friday, April 16th at VSU where student protesters stepped on an American flag and the woman who took the flag away from them was detained by campus police and given a criminal trespass warning.

As of Thursday, law enforcement was still searching for student protester Eric Sheppard. On Tuesday afternoon, police found a gun in a book bag on campus they believed to belong to Sheppard.

Chief Childress addressed comments that had been circulating since Tuesday regarding the fact that officers may have planted the gun. "Number one, the gun has been registered back to Mr. Sheppard. He bought the gun," said Chief Childress. "We have on video, in evidence, where he put that book bag down, which had the gun in it, and it was left there and no one touched that book bag until VSU Police performing extra patrols picked that book bag up."

Regarding safety on Friday, Chief Childress emphasized, much like he did Thursday, that every effort was being made to keep students and citizens safe.

"We're not gonna tolerate anybody who, in any fashion or form, exhibits any violence, any harassment. Those folks will be either arrested or asked to leave, and that's just the bottom line," Chief Childress stated.

As of Thursday, Friday's rally in support of the American flag was expected to draw around 4,000 people.

The participants were granted a permit on Wednesday to march on the sidewalks on Patterson St., Brookwood Dr., Georgia Ave., and Oak St. around the university from 1:30 p.m to 3 p.m.

Copyright  2015 WALB.  All rights reserved.