CUTHBERT, Ga. (WALB) - Cuthbert’s police chief and another police officer are back on the job nearly 11 months after a deadly officer-involved shooting.
The Cuthbert City Council made the decision in January, more than a month after a civil grand jury in Randolph County considered the death of Koby Edwards, 18.
In March 2020, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) stated in a press release that Edwards died after “a foot chase...that resulted in gunfire between” Edwards and the officers, Cuthbert Police Chief Kevin Flowers and Officer David Hunnicutt.
The incident face sheet from the GBI said that Edwards ran from Chief Flowers during an entering auto investigation.
The report said the chase ended with an “exchange of gunfire” between Edwards, Flowers and Hunnicutt.
The officers have not been charged with any crime.
Court documents from December show that a civil grand jury in Randolph County considered the case.
The documents said that the grand jury considered evidence and exhibits, along with testimony from two GBI agents, a representative from the Cuthbert Police Department and a civilian.
The court documents showed that the civil grand jury requested that the District Attorney Ronald “Vic” McNease, Jr. present an indictment against Flowers and Hunnicutt at the next criminal grand jury in Randolph County, for the charges of reckless conduct, which is a misdemeanor in Georgia.
The DA said he plans to present the case to the next criminal grand jury which is scheduled for May, but it could be later depending on COVID-19 delays.
Cuthbert City Council meeting minutes from June 2020 showed that both Flowers and Hunnicutt volunteered to go on paid administrative leave.
In January 2021, meeting minutes showed that the city council voted to have them both return to work.
The minutes stated that the police department was down to three officers at the time.
One councilman is quoted as saying, “we as city council members can’t jeopardize our city and citizens, and we need to do what is possible to keep them safe.”
City attorney Tommy Coleman spoke to WALB about the council’s decision.
“All rural communities, at least, the ones that I represent in South Georgia, are in need of policemen. There’s a real shortage,” Coleman said. “People are moving out of the profession, going to other things. And because of COVID and other factors, they needed policemen badly.”
Coleman said the decision had to do with finances as well.
“The other thing is just the sheer financial burden to a smaller community to pay employees for not working,” he said. “That’s not overwhelming, but a very, very expensive proposition for a city the size of Cuthbert.”
Cory Watson Attorneys, a law firm out of Alabama, is now working with Edwards’ family to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
“He’s terribly, terribly missed,” said one of their attorneys, Leila Watson. “He was a good kid, and we have no explanation of why he was killed.”
The family’s attorneys said they haven’t been able to get access to much evidence, including the autopsy report, because the investigation is still open.
“The family, and we agree, it’s very important to find out exactly what happened and get to the bottom of it,” Watson said.
Edwards’ family’s attorneys said they are disappointed the officers are back at work.
“While we’re told the investigation is still open and ongoing, from our perspective, it doesn’t seem right,” Watson said.
WALB asked both Watson and Coleman if they are aware whether Edwards had a gun at the time of the shooting.
“We do not believe that Kobe had a gun. We know he didn’t own a gun,” Watson said. “We know nobody in the family owned a gun. He was staying with his grandmother. She did not own a gun. He was with a friend of his earlier that day. We’ve talked to that friend. He doesn’t own a gun, and so, it is our firm belief that Kobe did not have a gun that day.”
“Well, the initial incident report said that he did, but that’s something that the grand jury will review, decide.” Coleman said. “It is really in the criminal justice system, and I think we prefer to wait on that.”
The family’s attorneys say they have filed advanced notice of a lawsuit, but they said they are hoping to get access to evidence for their case soon.
WALB reached out to Flowers and Hunnicutt for comment on this story but did not hear back.
Edwards’ family released a statement about the case through their attorneys:
“We remain heartbroken in the aftermath of Koby’s tragic and completely unnecessary death at the hands of two City of Cuthbert police officers. While we understand that the civil grand jury of Randolph County requested indictments be returned for reckless conduct against the two officers involved, many questions remain unanswered as to the officers’ motives in allegedly chasing down and using deadly force against a teenager while investigating a property crime (Source cited: “Report of the Randolph County Grand Jury Regarding The Use of Force By Kevin Flowers and David Hunnicutt on December 8, 2020”).
Far too often, Black people are deprived of justice in these circumstances. We appreciate the diligent work of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and District Attorney Ronald McNease, Jr. in their investigation and presentation of evidence to the grand jury. While this initial proceeding is a significant first step, we look forward to uncovering the truth surrounding the death of our beloved Koby, however unsettling those facts may be (Source: Georgia Bureau of Investigation press release “GBI Investigates Officer-Involved Shooting in Cuthbert”, March 21, 2020).
In this country, there exists a long history of unwarranted, excessively violent, and abhorrent use of deadly force by law enforcement against Black people, and especially young Black men. We are deeply troubled that Koby’s life was ended under these same circumstances and demand that this cycle of violence come to an end. We want to make clear that Koby did not pose a danger to society. His unwavering dream was to serve both his community and his country as a member of the armed forces.
For those of you hurting with us, sending your kindness to us, and supporting us during this difficult time: We thank you for your love, light, and empathy. To all others, we request privacy pending the full outcome of this matter and ask that you direct any and all inquiries to our spokesperson.”