Crime & Courts

Richmond Co. | Columbia Co. | Aiken Co. |

Deputy fired for drug use, letter says

Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 1:31 PM
Last updated Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 1:32 AM
  • Follow Crime & courts

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office’s 2013 Deputy of the Year was fired last month after admitting to purchasing cocaine while on duty, in uniform and in a patrol vehicle “a couple dozen times,” according to his termination letter released Wednesday.

Austin Shepherd: Deputy said he purchased cocaine while on duty and in uniform.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Austin Shepherd: Deputy said he purchased cocaine while on duty and in uniform.

The sheriff’s office launched an investigation into Deputy Austin Shepherd in March 2012 after he was spotted going into the Davis Mill Road residence of known drug dealer Stephen Marquise Crawford.

Shepherd told a disciplinary review board he went into the home, which was outside of his beat, while on duty to trade video games with Crawford, who was a longtime friend, according to the letter. Then-Sheriff Ronnie Strength suspended Shepherd for 15 days and placed him on a year of probation.

After Crawford was sentenced in federal court on drug charges on Dec. 19, 2013, an investigator for the sheriff’s office interviewed him about his involvement with Shepherd.

Crawford said he met Shepherd about 2006 in Wrens, Ga., before he was in law enforcement and would sell cocaine to him “almost every day,” according to the termination letter.

After he became a sheriff’s deputy, Shepherd continued to buy cocaine from Crawford “at a minimum of once a week” while on duty and in his patrol car, Crawford told the investigator.

Crawford said that he received information about the narcotics division through their relationship and that Shepherd would trade drugs confiscated from offenders with him for cocaine.

In an interview with Maj. Scott Peebles on Dec. 30, Shepherd said he had not dealt with Crawford since October 2012 and had not used cocaine since April 2012.

Shepherd admitted to using cocaine while employed with the sheriff’s office and had bought the drug from Crawford a “couple dozen times.”

He also admitted to using cocaine during college and lying on his pre-employment application and polygraph about his drug use.

He denied, however, trading confiscated drugs with Crawford or providing sensitive information about the narcotics division, according to the letter.

Sheriff Richard Round­tree stated in a media release Wednesday that his office worked with the local FBI office to determine whether criminal charges could be pursued after Shepherd’s termination Dec. 30.

Because enough evidence wasn’t available for a prosecution, no criminal charges will be filed, Roundtree stated. Sheperd, a five-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was selected as Deputy of the Year for 2013 and recognized by the mayor and the Augusta Commission as county Employee of the Month in September.

The honor came after the deputy discovered a family of four on Washington Road that had been living in their vehicle for a week. A woman who suffered mental problems had taken the vehicle with her 2-year-old and left her husband and 8-year-old son behind after destroying the boy’s clothing.

After Shepherd stopped her auto, the woman begged him to shoot her before she was taken into custody.

Shepherd and his wife bought clothes for the 8-year-old and raised $140 through donations from fellow officers to help the family. The deputy also worked with a friend who manages a motel so the family could have a room at a reduced rate.

The 19 felony arrests that Shepherd made in 2013 were another reason for the award, police said at the award ceremony.

Shepherd also spearheaded a fundraiser to give to the employees of a car wash at Walton Way and Crawford Avenue who have befriended deputies. The fundraiser resulted in $350 being divided among the car wash employees.

As part of his award, Shep­herd received a day off with pay, more than $500 in gift certificates donated by businesses, a sheriff’s office watch, a plaque and a letter from the sheriff.

Staff Writer Bianca Cain Johnson contributed to this article.

Comments (49) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Aceman
111
Points
Aceman 01/22/14 - 03:12 pm
7
8
What a POS

Nothing I hate worse than a crooked cop. Good riddance you sorry SOB.

corgimom
32229
Points
corgimom 01/22/14 - 03:15 pm
10
5
I couldn't agree with you

I couldn't agree with you more, Aceman.

I just wonder how many people he dealt with, as a sworn officer of the law, when he was high on coke. And had a badge and a gun and arrest powers.

That's downright frightening, to have a drug addict as a police officer.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 01/22/14 - 03:27 pm
12
8
So in March 2012 he's spotted

So in March 2012 he's spotted going into Crawford's home, caught and given a 15 days suspension. He says he hasn't used cocaine since April 2012 and has not dealt with Crawford since October 2012. Now Crawford is sentence in federal court on drug charges in December 2013 and starts pointing fingers so now Shepard is fired but not charged because there isn't enough evidence.....

I understand that law enforcement officers are suppose to be held to a higher standard but is it possible this young man learned his lesson and after the suspension realized he better get his act together? I hate for someone who evidently cares about society because of the kindness he showed this homeless woman and her children to loose his job and possibly a career he could do well at, but is there more to the story?

I do hope he gets beyond all this.

jtr0777
24
Points
jtr0777 01/22/14 - 03:32 pm
7
7
Good vs Bad

I know it's a sad thing to see a police officer offending the law instead of defending it. I would make no excuse for his behavior.

However, I do consider the great things that he accomplished, and the things that he could do that would be so beneficial to the Sheriff's Office. You've heard the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." This world needs to salvage as many individuals as possible. No matter how bad a person is, when you look for the good, you are usually overwhelmed!

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 01/22/14 - 05:10 pm
12
2
It's about trust!!

ICL, But do you honestly believe he was trading video games? Can you truly believe that he quit around the time of this suspension? Even if it's suspect, whether or not you can trust him, he certainly doesn't need to wear a badge and gun!! We absolutely DO need to be held to a higher standard than to be consuming or even meddling in narcotics!! I don't care how long he knew this Crawford!! If Crawford was even thought to be selling drugs, he shouldn't have EVER went around him, not even to trade him a bar of soap!!!

I completely support his termination!! I wish Shepherd the best of luck in life and pursuing a new career, but I regret that he ever wore a badge and brought shame upon the profession!! Unfortunately, moreso in law enforcement than most careers, when ONE individual does something wrong, the public lumps MANY of us into that category!!

Now, I'm not trying to be high and righteous here. Law Enforcement officers are still human beings, capable of mistakes just like anyone else. I've said many times, we as a society do NOT need to place politicians, judges, pastors or even the Pope, on a pedestal; because each of these are JUST MEN AND WOMEN!!! Just another human being, not gods!! They are just as capable of bias and wrongful behavior as many others. Deputies and Officer's are no different!! They make decisions that hurt their lives and others as well. NO HUMAN BEING is perfect!! THAT is a lesson we ALL need to learn.

But, this isn't politics where people "repent", the public forgives them and then votes them back in. This is LAW ENFORCEMENT!! You can forgive him all you want, but TRUST IS LOST!! If he remained in law enforcement, every case he made from there on would be highly scutinized and rightfully so. Can you imagine the lawyer of a client who Shepherd arrested for drugs next year or the year after? What that lawyer would say in court?

This article says he made 19 feleny arrests in one year. How many of those are for drugs? When they go to court, would there not be a credibility issue there? Will you trust a deputies testimony, who has also admitted to purchasing and using narcotics?

To make this post shorter, the bottom line is; there is NO WAY he could have remained employeed in law enforcement once his credibility is shot!!!

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 01/22/14 - 05:49 pm
7
2
Myfather15, I never said I

Myfather15, I never said I believe him or disbelieved him. Like you said, we are all human and make mistakes. I've worked in law enforcement and seen a many good man make poor choices and ruin a career. Just hate it happened to someone who seems to be trying to get his life on the right path. I agree, credibility is important in this line of work, and you make some good point but I'd have to say I don't regret he ever wore a badge. I'm not willing to throw out all the good he did with the bad and do hope he moves on to something less in the public eye.

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 01/22/14 - 05:58 pm
5
2
ICL, good points.

Well, let me correct my statement, because you bring up a good point. I don't regret that he ever wore a badge, I regret that he wore a badge and decided to commit these acts which brought discredit to the profession. It shouldn't bring discredit upon me and most others, but unfortunately, too many people lump us all in together. This isn't personal either, I regret when any officer makes poor choices which bring himself and the department discredit from some of the public.

bright idea
814
Points
bright idea 01/22/14 - 06:00 pm
5
2
I fear

he will end up on some small town police force in the area unless his certification is revoked. Can that happen without legal charges and only a firing on his record?

willie Lee
421
Points
willie Lee 01/22/14 - 06:01 pm
3
5
WELL MF!
Unpublished

We finally agree on something!

corgimom
32229
Points
corgimom 01/22/14 - 06:05 pm
6
12
Anybody that had been

Anybody that had been arrested by him, they should go to court and get their conviction overturned.

He didn't make any mistakes. He deliberately lied, and deliberately used drugs, and bought and used those drugs WHILE ON DUTY.

That is NOT a mistake. Those are many deliberate acts.

The idea that a deputy sheriff was running around with a badge and a gun, high on coke, is unconscionable- at the same time, he was arresting people.

There is nothing that he could do that would be beneficial to the Sheriff's office, and to think that he could is just bizarre.

He deserved to be terminated. Too bad they won't prosecute him- and it's not because of evidence, it's because he'll be killed in prison.

owensjef3
5639
Points
owensjef3 01/23/14 - 09:37 am
8
11
ICL you are a trip. All this
Unpublished

ICL you are a trip. All this compassion for this guy and none for a teenage boy walking home from the store. Really !

Truth Matters
6806
Points
Truth Matters 01/22/14 - 06:25 pm
5
1
MF15@ 4:10 PM Glad to give

MF15@ 4:10 PM
Glad to give your post a thumbs up.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 01/22/14 - 06:49 pm
8
5
Owensjef3

Owensjef3, Seriously? Which boy are you speaking about anyway? The one who assaulted a neighborhood watchman, or the one that disobeyed a direct order to stop by more than one officer?

*self edited

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 01/22/14 - 06:42 pm
7
8
Corgimom, no where in this

Corgimom, no where in this article or previous articles has it stated this officer was high while performing his job, and why in the world would anyone suggest everyone that he arrested go to court to overturn their conviction. If he had arrested a child molester, a murder, a thief, do you seriously want them to go to court to overturn their conviction. Seriously, do you even think about what you are saying before commenting? If there has been evidence to convict Mr. Shephard I do believe the Sheriff is an upstanding law enforcement officer and would have done his duty. To suggest otherwise is just nonsense.

nocnoc
42470
Points
nocnoc 01/22/14 - 07:11 pm
10
1
Raises More Questions

How did he pass RCSO Drug testing to get the job?
How did he continue to pass random testing it after being hired?
How did he pass likely random drug testing after being placed on placed on probation?

Plus one last question:

How did he pass the polygraph?

Does the Polygraph machine need to be replaced or the just the Operator?

Too many questions to be this simple of an answer.

corgimom
32229
Points
corgimom 01/22/14 - 07:44 pm
3
3
ICL, I'm guessing that you

ICL, I'm guessing that you haven't known a lot of cocaine addicts.

This guy was so hooked that he was going to his supplier while on duty, while in uniform, to buy drugs. He was desperate. He was hooked bad. But you want to think that this desperate drug addict went to his supplier on duty, in a patrol car, in uniform, got drugs, and hid them- hid them WHERE?- and waited, and then used them when he got off duty.

I can tell you, that didn't happen. He wouldn't have needed to go while he was on duty, if he didn't need it right then and there.

Now, I have had lots of dealings with cocaine users over the years.

He would be 100 different kinds of stupid to keep the drugs on him, to be discovered. He went and got the drugs because he needed them. To think that he would keep them in his car and wait until later to use them- all I can say is that you don't know how drug addicts think, to say the least.

Yes, he used them. Why else would he go to his supplier's house on duty, in uniform, in his patrol car- to "exchange video games"? To chat about the weather?

He used on duty. It defies all reason and rationality to think otherwise.

And he didn't do it just once, he did it over and over- he was addicted. A coke addict can't go 8 hours without a hit.

I don't have to tell you that the sun will come up tomorrow morning. You know it, and I know it.

And just like I know that the sun will come up tomorrow morning, I know that he used drugs on duty. Nothing else would make any sense whatsoever and would be completely contrary to how coke addicts act.

And ABSOLUTELY, he was a sworn officer of the law and was arresting people while he was a coke addict! REALLY, you don't see a problem with that? A coke addict doesn't think straight, they don't have good judgment, and he was out arresting people. That coke messes up their brains, and you don't get that? It doesn't matter if he arrested a serial killer, all his arrests are tainted because he was a coke addict and committing felonies while on duty, and nobody is allowed to do that!

And by the way, the letter that the RCSO wrote about him is available online. The RCSO went to the FBI, that's how much they wanted to prosecute him, but there is a lack of evidence ( and they also don't like to convict cops, they have a way of getting killed in prison.)

Gee, why did RCSO go to the FBI and want him prosecuted?

corgimom
32229
Points
corgimom 01/22/14 - 07:56 pm
4
7
Oh, and it also defies logic

Oh, and it also defies logic to think that a coke addict would get drugs while on duty "a couple of dozen times" and then wait until he got off duty to use.

Please, I was born at night, but not last night!

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 01/22/14 - 08:13 pm
9
7
Oh I forgot corgi....you know

Oh I forgot corgi....you know everything about everyone and every situation. Let me fill you in, you don't know jack.

You can speculate all you want, but you do not have any facts that this officer was using drugs while on duty. You have no fact that he was even an addict. Yes he used, he admitted to that. Yes he bought it while on duty, he has admitted to that. That is all you have proof of.

Unless you were riding along with him every day and saw him snort it yourself, all you have is personal opinions and slanderous remarks. You don't know as much as you THINK you know.

I would be careful accusing someone of being a coke addict without valid proof. Evidently the Sheriff doesn't have proof either or else he would have been brought up on charges. Getting killed in prison? Seriously? You've been watching too much TV.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 01/22/14 - 08:22 pm
7
6
Oh by the way "And just like

Oh by the way "And just like I know that the sun will come up tomorrow morning, I know that he used drugs on duty"

There is no guarantee the sun will come up tomorrow morning. Sorry to burst your know-it-all, condescending, opinion.

GiantsAllDay
9580
Points
GiantsAllDay 01/22/14 - 08:58 pm
7
5
Would LOVE to see Austin

Would LOVE to see Austin Rhodes comment on the latest information. A dirty cop can screw you over any day and all day. A badge and a gun is just a legal street gang. Like I said before, this guy was first place for deputy of the year. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, Augusta Chronicle, tell us, PLEASE who came in second and third.

GiantsAllDay
9580
Points
GiantsAllDay 01/22/14 - 09:00 pm
6
3
So is this guy in jail right

So is this guy in jail right now?

GiantsAllDay
9580
Points
GiantsAllDay 01/22/14 - 09:34 pm
6
4
So is this guy in jail right

"Because enough evidence wasn’t available for a successful prosecution, no criminal charges will be filed",holy crap, even the GBI is crooked. So is this guy in jail right now? Nope, jail is just for regular folks. In uniform, in his cop car, with his a badge and gun.... That's not a whole lot, is it? Let him walk. So this guy is plugged in to the CSRA? Crap, if you were born around here, you can get away with anything. I'm sending this to cop block, they won't be able to do anything about either

internationallyunknown
4181
Points
internationallyunknown 01/22/14 - 10:22 pm
0
3
Well dang.

Well dang.

owensjef3
5639
Points
owensjef3 01/22/14 - 10:51 pm
3
6
Yea ICL one guy was walking
Unpublished

Yea ICL one guy was walking home and one guy was looking for trouble, we know that for a fact. A man with a history of violence shot a kid and you know by now he will be violent with women , and you still have no compassion for him , but feel sorry for a cop buying drugs while on duty. That tells me a lot .

deestafford
27512
Points
deestafford 01/22/14 - 11:55 pm
5
1
One thing I will agree with here...

One thing I will agree with here is the term mistake. Like so many politicians who are caught wrong doing it is said they made a "mistake". Folks, that ain't a "mistake". A mistake is when you put on one blue and one black sock.

GiantsAllDay
9580
Points
GiantsAllDay 01/23/14 - 12:00 am
3
3
Deestafford Well, we at least

Deestafford
Well, we at least can agree on something.

Bizkit
31304
Points
Bizkit 01/23/14 - 02:46 am
5
2
Where's the moral

Where's the moral relativism-the President of the US Barak Obama has admitted to cocaine use-so no biggie. You can smoke pot and snort coke and be President but not a police officer. Dang seems discriminatory.

owensjef3
5639
Points
owensjef3 01/23/14 - 03:18 am
2
4
Oh you are reaching Biz.
Unpublished

Oh you are reaching Biz.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 01/23/14 - 06:08 am
4
2
No more than you are reaching

No more than you are reaching owensjef3.

"one guy was walking home and one guy was looking for trouble, we know that for a fact"

No ownesjef3, there are no facts that one was just walking home and one was looking for trouble. Facts state one was loitering around the back of residences, talking on the phone, in the middle of the rain. Facts state one was heading home from the store when he saw the loiterer. (period).

Besides owensjef3, where have I stated I have no compassion for Trayvon. Please go back to my comments and mark the date and time where I have said anything negative against this boy other than the facts stated in the case and sympathy for his parents.

Reaching owensjef3......maybe you need to reach up and knock that chip you have off your shoulder. It's blocking your vision.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 01/23/14 - 05:49 am
3
2
Dee, I understand your point

Dee, I understand your point but the actual definition of mistake is "an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong." Seems to fit, but maybe not the best choice of a word.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs