ATHENS, Ga. -- Authorities with the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office are investigating how an apparently disturbed man got into a secure area of the jail Saturday by pretending to be a police officer.
Robert Andrew Cooper, 50, entered a bond hearing room at the jail just before the judge arrived; Cooper then made racist statements about Sheriff Ira Edwards and later threatened to arrest a sheriff’s deputy, according to sheriff’s records.
The records were submitted this morning by sheriff’s officials to Athens-Clarke County Magistrate Court, along with other jail documents.
Cooper, who lives in Statham, was charged with impersonating a police officer, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct, according to jail records.
After the Athens Banner-Herald obtained the jail records, a spokesman for Edwards said a serious lapse in security allowed Cooper into the jail.
“The sheriff’s office will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident and take any actions deemed appropriate,” sheriff’s Capt. Eric Pozen said.
“The investigation will include a review of the employees’ actions to determine if their actions were in accordance with security procedures,” he said.
The jail records included statements by sheriff’s deputies and an employee of the Western Judicial District Public Defender Office, who was speaking with prisoners when Cooper entered the bond hearing room.
Cooper is on probation for a drug conviction in Jackson County, according to records.
The man was allowed into the hearing room after he told a deputy he was a retired police officer who had permission from Edwards and a judge to observe a bond hearing, according to the deputy’s statement.
Cooper’s only identification was a driver’s license, and he had nothing to indicate he was ever involved in law enforcement, according to the deputy’s statement.
The deputy explained in a statement that he let Cooper into the secure area of the jail “due to the fact that I was thinking he was working with the judges or was here with the sheriff’s permission.”
Cooper had a pocket knife on a key chain, which the deputy placed in a lock-box for firearms, according to the deputy’s statement.
According to the statement of Jan Hoffman, the Public Defender Office employee was talking to prisoners in the hearing room prior to bond hearings — discussing what legal assistance was available to them — when Cooper walked in about 8:45 a.m. Saturday and explained he had permission to observe proceedings to “prevent the sheriff, judge or city from being sued.”
Cooper repeatedly interrupted Hoffman as she spoke with prisoners, and she “became concerned about who this guy was and what he was doing here,” Hoffman said in her statement. The man also made bizarre statements, like he was a paralegal and his 16-year-old son was an attorney, according to Hoffman’s statement.
After Hoffman notified jail officials, Cooper told a white deputy that he should run for election against Sheriff Edwards, who is black, because “the Republican Party 1 percent was getting together” in order to “get (Edwards) out of there,” referring to the sheriff with a racially derogatory word, according to a deputy’s statement.
When Hoffman called for deputies, jailers escorted Cooper into the lobby, where a supervisor tried to reason with the man, according to reports. But Cooper became agitated, said he was going to call the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the White House, and said he worked for “the Honorable Barack Obama,” according to deputy statements.
Cooper refused to leave the jail, and when a supervisor told him he was under arrest, Cooper told the deputy he was under arrest and ordered him to “assume the position,” according to Hoffman’s statement.
As the supervisor prepared to handcuff Cooper, he asked to use the cuffs because he hadn’t brought his own with him, Hoffman said in her statement.
During a search, deputies found Cooper had $7,955 in cash and traveler’s checks totaling $700, according to records.