Originally created 03/10/01

Arrested deputy resigns from force



A Richmond County sheriff's deputy resigned Thursday after being arrested a week ago after a domestic dispute at his residence, according to Sheriff Ronnie Strength.

Thomas Edward Cooper, 30, of the 2800 block of Waterside Drive, was arrested March 2 at the Criminal Investigation Division of the sheriff's office and charged with misdemeanor simple battery and felony false imprisonment, according to jail and sheriff's office records.

Mr. Cooper was released from the Richmond County Jail on Sunday on a $10,000 bond set by Richmond County Magistrate and Civil Court Chief Judge William D. Jennings III, Sheriff Strength said.

"He came in yesterday and tendered his resignation, which I accepted," Sheriff Strength said Friday.

Mr. Cooper was a motorcycle patrolman, the sheriff said. He was hired in 1994. His 1999 evaluation score was 8.7 out of a possible 10. Sheriff Strength called him a good officer.

His wife, Jennifer Diane Cooper, called the sheriff's office about 9 p.m. March 2, and said she and her husband had gotten into an argument and that he had grabbed her around the neck and begun choking her, according to a family violence incident report.

Mrs. Cooper said Mr. Cooper refused to allow her to leave the house and would not allow her to call anyone. Each time she tried to leave, he stopped her. She was finally able to break free and run out of the residence and call the police, the report states.

Mrs. Cooper had a small bruise on her neck and a small mark on her left arm, according to the report.

Because the offenses were committed in the presence of the Coopers' two young children, a sheriff's department officer also executed a warrant for misdemeanor cruelty to children in the second degree, but the warrants division did not issue it.

On Thursday, Mrs. Cooper asked that the charges be dropped and was allowed to sign a dismissal form. She did not seek the warrants, but the sheriff's office did, and it will be up to court officials to decide whether to prosecute her husband, Sheriff Strength said.

If he is prosecuted and convicted of the charges, Mr. Cooper would not be allowed to own a gun or work as a certified officer again.

Staff Writer Johnny Edwards contributed to this story.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228.