As REVOLT previously reported, Paul Urhahn of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office reacted to a story on WGXA-TV’s Facebook page after the men were given their sentences. “That criminal arbery still got the death penalty though,” he wrote and later deleted. Screenshots of his remarks were shared throughout social media, prompting backlash from people in the community, including activist Eli Porter, who works with the local Poor And Minority Justice Association.
“That deputy represents that entire department and for him to say something like that… It got under my skin,” Porter told ABC 7.
The Houston County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation into Urhahn’s comment. The probe ended on Monday morning (Jan. 10) and Urhahn was suspended, effective on Tuesday (Jan. 11). Sheriff Cullen Talton posted to the department’s Facebook page saying that the deputy was suspended because the behavior discredited the department and was unbecoming of an officer.
Chief Deputy Billy Rape said Urhahn was disciplined in the past for other offenses, but his firing was based exclusively on “the destruction of public respect for himself and our department through all of the social media outrage.” His termination will be effective Jan. 20, unless he appeals.
Last week, Arbery’s killers — Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. — were sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of Arbery’s murder in November. Judge Timothy Walmsley handed Gregory and Travis life sentences without the possibility of parole plus 20 years; while Bryan will have the possibility of parole. However, because he was convicted of serious violent felonies, Bryan will not be eligible for parole under Georgia law until he has served 30 years in prison.