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The overturned 2006 Toyota RAV 4 driven by Christian Green of Watkinsville, Ga. Green was uninjured and managed to remove himself from the vehicle before authorities arrived. The treacherous mountainous terrain and lack of cell service impeded the call.

Dawson sheriff sets record straight on 911 service call

6-hour search ends with victim found in Gilmer County

BY DENISE RAY This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. PHOTOS COURTESY OF DAWSON COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

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Dawson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Larry Busher was dispatched to an early morning call for service at the scene of a single motor vehicle accident on Nimblewill Gap Road in Gilmer County. Busher, along with Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Randy Harkness, searched for hours to locate the accident.

What would have been a routine 911 service call, ended up being a multi-jurisdiction, mutual aid rescue.

A May 19 call to Lumpkin County 911 center began a series of events that resulted in a six-hour search and rescue for the driver of an overturned vehicle on a remote and treacherous road.

The early morning call came into the Lumpkin County 911 Center regarding a single car wreck on Nimblewill Gap Road. A caller identified as Raul, told authorities that Christian Green, 24, of Watkinsville, Ga. was involved in an accident on Nimblewill Gap Road and was uninjured. Raul relayed the information from Bill Skinner, 29, of Johns Creek, Ga., who happened to be driving his Chevy Trailblazer on the road and noticed Green.

Lumpkin County authorities, unable to locate the vehicle, requested Dawson County Sheriff’s Office continue the search on the portion of the road inside Dawson county.

According to the audio recording given to Smoke Signals, Dawson County Sheriff Deputy Jacob Ward was dispatched to the call, but Sgt. Larry Busher volunteered to go instead, stating that Ward was “an eastside unit” and once his current service call was completed, he would make his way to the scene of the accident.

Dawson County Sheriff’s Office was able to locate Skinner’s cell phone using their i911 application but not the actual sight of the accident as Skinner had left the scene of the accident to try to find cell reception.

Already 90 minutes into the search, Busher faced a road closure and low fuel, and headed down the mountain to refuel and resumed searching for another hour without locating the vehicle or driver.

Busher became concerned that the call was suspicious and shared his concerns to his dispatcher then requested Sgt. Randy Harkness, also of the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, assist in the search. Harkness, according to Johnson, was very familiar with the area. An excerpt of the recorded conversation has been posted on the internet.

“I’m not (expletive) going anywhere; Randy Harkness is coming with me,” said Busher.

“Oh my God,” replied Dawson County 911 dispatch operator Mikki Mullins. “So you’re not even close?”

“I’m at Nimblewill Church Road and Nimblewill Gap,” he responded, indicating that he was on scene and continuing to actively search. “I’m sorry, but something about this isn’t right. I mean if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but if I’m right, it just might save my (expletive) life.”

Harkness was on scene in approximately 45 minutes and together the officers located the spot from where Skinner’s phone was pinged. The accident, they soon discovered, was a mile away, inside Gilmer County.

Now over four hours into the search, Busher, along with Harkness, find Skinner, who takes Busher to the scene of the accident, using a 4-wheel drive vehicle to “bring the victim out” according to Johnson.

Harkness stays with Busher’s patrol car, which was unable to safely nagivate the treacherous mountainous terrain. Gilmer County Sheriff’s deputies were also unable to reach the scene of the accident from their side, so Skinner and Busher brought Green back to Busher’s patrol car. Green is later taken down the mountain, transferred to another patrol car and taken to the Gilmer County line where he goes with Gilmer officers to file an accident report.

Busher has the support of Johnson regarding a possible ambush.

Officers are targeted, according to Johnson.

“Just this week, a California law enforcement hero passed away after being ambushed,” he said. “The threat to our law enforcement officers is real.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a press release on law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty during 2018. The statement, published May 6, states that 106 officers were killed in line-of-duty deaths (LODD) last year with 55 being “feloniously killed”, nine more than 2017. Of the 55 officers feloniously killed,11 were ambushed. Twenty-six of the deaths occurred in the South.

An excerpt of the recorded conversation between Busher and Mullins had been posted on the internet raising questions about the response time to the 911 call. Johnson took to local media outlets to set the record straight.

Busher’s language was not appropriate, according to the sheriff.

“From my discussions with Sgt. Busher, several elements contributed to him verbalizing his concerns to a 911 operator,” Johnson said. “These include the lack of confirmation of an exact location, no contact after search by Lumpkin County deputies, no personal contact after 90-plus minutes of searching, receiving information from second and third parties who were not physically with the accident victim, the late hour, the remote location and the knowledge of knowing that officers are often targeted and ambushed.”

Johnson said that Sgt. Busher has been counseled on his use of offensive language and should there be any reoccurrences, they will be handled accordingly.

Mullins has not been reprimanded for her comments to the officer, according to Johnson, but the department is “looking at some internal issues.”

 

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