Lowndes Co. sheriff speaks out after video goes viral of a physical altercation

Lowndes Co. sheriff speaks out after video goes viral of a physical altercation

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - A video, that was shared with WALB News 10 by several viewers, shows a man and a protestor discussing a sign with profanity on it.

One protester said she didn’t know that man was Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk.

On Wednesday evening, Lori Keith was at the Brass Quill Gallery shop, across the street from the courthouse on North Ashley Street, when she looked out the window and saw a gentleman in a blue shirt walking up to a protestor.

“So the gentleman approached, so we’re like, ‘Oh, there’s a guy approaching one of the protestors.’ So we got the phone and started videoing from over here and as he went to grab the sign, we were like, ‘Oh no, this is going sideways,'” said Keith.

Downtown Valdosta protesting incident involving Sheriff Ashley Paulk and a protestor with a profanity sign.
Downtown Valdosta protesting incident involving Sheriff Ashley Paulk and a protestor with a profanity sign. (Source: WALB)

Keith shared her video with us and said they weren’t sure who the guy was at that point. As she got closer, she became aware the man was the sheriff.

“I went back out there and approached the young man that had the sign and told him, ‘This is against the law, you need to give me the sign.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to give you the sign, it’s mine.’ ‘If you don’t give me the sign, I’ll be forced to charge you with obstruction and I don’t want to do that because I’ll have to take you to jail.’ He started surrendering the sign slowly and as I was turning, a Caucasian female came from the left and grabbed the sign from my arm,” said Sheriff Paulk.

Paulk said he had spent the day out there with the protestors.

He said he gives them credit because they have kept it peaceful.

Paulk said he joined them to make sure they don’t get harassed and feel protected.

Around lunchtime, the sheriff stepped away and that’s when things took a turn.

When he left, he said a man brought out a sign with profanity.

Georgia law states under Article II, Offenses Against Public Order, that the use of obscene and vulgar or profane language in the presence of people under 14 years is not permitted. Anyone who commits this offense can be charged with a misdemeanor.

“When she realized I was law enforcement, she apologized and before I walked off, I shook her hand. She asked if she was going to jail and I said, ‘No ma’am,' I shook her hand,” said Sheriff Paulk.

The video shows the moment the woman appears to grab the sign from his and he grabs her shoulder.

Another protestor, Cheyenne Padgett, said she’s been with the group since Monday but decided a “break” was needed yesterday. She said she doesn’t want the incident to discredit what they’ve done so far. The movement is about making sure voices that matter are the voices that are heard.

Padgett said she’s there to make sure the people that are gone are not forgotten.

“Because it matters, I have best friends who I care about who have been scared of the police. I have family members who I care deeply about and have told me not to protest. And now I kinda see why. Voices are not being heard, they’re not being cared for,” said Padgett.

All profane signs were discarded immediately after being brought to their attention that they are illegal.

As far as the woman in the video, protestors said she hasn’t returned.

The group plans to continue their peaceful protest throughout the rest to the week and they’re organizing a march this Saturday.

It will take place at 6 p.m. and will begin at the MLK memorial on MLK Drive.

Downtown Valdosta protesting incident involving Sheriff Ashley Paulk and a protestor with a profanity sign.
Downtown Valdosta protesting incident involving Sheriff Ashley Paulk and a protestor with a profanity sign. (Source: WALB)

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