Eyewitness News at 11, 1-28-13

12:14 AM, Jan 29, 2013   |    comments
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Good evening, everyone. I'm Frank Malloy.


And I'm Leah Johnson.

One council member says she's not getting the answers she wants about an ongoing investigation...

<I didn't expect to get stonewalled...>

More from today's city council meeting... where December's police-involved shooting at a Macon Supermarket was on the agenda.


< Well... We spent... 30 plus years in this church... >

Also... A congregation...clinging to their memories tonight of a church destroyed by fire.

Those stories...coming your way...right now.

We'll get to those stories we just told you about in a moment, but first...

We have some breaking news tonight on out of Wilkinson County.

A teacher at Wilkinson County High School has been arrested...and charged with child molestation.

Early today, he was questioned about alleged inappropriate conduct with a student.

Then...the school disctrict says... He turned in his resignaton letter.

In a news release from the school district, a spokesman identified the teacher as Cornelius Danta Jones.

He is being held at the Wilkinson County Law enforcement center.

The release says high school administration is assisting with the ongoing investigation, and quotes the superintendent, Dr. Aaron Geter, as saying,

"Any allegation of harm against a student is taken seriously and we are working with the proper authorities as they investigate."

A spokesman says, The school board will address the teacher's employment status at a meeting in February.

Several Macon City council members say they're frustrated by a lack of answers about what happened on December 31st... when police say... A Macon officer fatally shot a man outside a supermarket.

Tom George was at their meeting today and joins us now with more.

Macon police officer clayton sutton is on administrative leave...after police say he fired three shots, killing sammie davis, jr.

bibb county's district attorney asked the gbi to investigate after the Macon Police conducted its own internal investigation...and so far...the results of that investigation aren't back yet... but some council members say, they'd like some answers now.

at a public safety committee meeting, they pressed keith moffett, Assistant to the City Chief Administrative Officer... for answers, but say they didn't get them ...

then another council member pointed out that two members of the macon police force, including spokeswoman jami gaudet were sitting in the audience for another agenda item.

< i'm not prepared to speak about this ... and it's an open investigation ... but i'll convey your concerns to the chief... you have my word. >

Council member tom ellington says although he understands the need to protect some confidential information as the gbi continues to investigate, he was upset that even questions about police policies seemed to be off the table.

< one of the questions i think has been on the minds of a lot of residents since very early in this investigation is 'why were we initially told that the officer involved was serving a warrant when it turns out that there was no warrant being served?' .. and the answer that we got from the administration today was 'i don't know,' so i hope that when the gbi completes its investigation, we will have an answer to that. i hope that the gbi's investigation is thorough and that it leads to justice. >

councilwoman elaine lucas says she was also upset over the lack of answers ... she referred to sutton's past, which includes more than 2 dozen disciplinary complaints..

she said regardless of what the d.a.'s office eventually does, she believes given sutton's past record even before the shooting, he should not have been employed by the city.

< his whole career has been deeply compromised and i think there are law enforcement officials who have said that with the kind of record that he has, that he should not have continued as a police officer anyway. >

The GBI is waiting for more results before sending back information on its investigation. Among those are toxicology and ballistics reports.

The GBI hopes to have that information back to District Attorney David Cooke by mid-Februrary. Sutton remains on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure when an officer is involved in an investigation.

We could be just a day from a vote...that would make elections in Macon and Bibb County non-partisan.

State Senator Cecil Staton...has filed a bill to remove the D-s and R-s from beside candidates' names.

Macon currently has the only partisan city elections in the state.

Another member of the Bibb delegation told us today by phone...he thinks the Senate may actually vote tomorrow after Staton presents the proposal on the senate floor.

So far...the idea has been met by mixed reviews in the political community here.

We'll be at the Capitol tomorrow...and we'll keep you posted on what happens.

It was last year when we first told you about Macon Promise Neighborhoods-- an initiative that works to use up to 30 million dollars in federal money to help students in South Macon.

But since last month, their name has been attached to controversy involving the Bibb county school district and a local non-profit.

Tonight... promise neighborhood leaders spoke out in defense of their work.

Candace Adorka was there.

Macon Promise Neighborhood is made up of 32 local entities, including the Bibb County school district. Those entities pledge to combine their resources to boost student achievement in the Tindall heights and Unionville neighborhoods.

Last month the school district was named in a lawsuit where Chief Financial Officer Ron Collier says he was punished for raising questions about a million-dollar payment.

But Cliffard Whitby, executive director of Macon Promise neighborhood says they never requested or received the million dollars, and that money is strictly between the school district and another promise neighborhood partner... PICD.

The school district actually paid the money to the Central Georgia Partnership For Individual and Community Development or PICD.

According to an invoice from PICD, the money was supposed help renovate an old school building for promise neighborhood to house their programs in the building.

Another version of the invoice says the million dollars fulfilled the school district's pledge to provide resources that a federal grant was supposed to match.

When promise neighborhood partners gathered for their quarterly meeting monday night, leaders of the initiative wanted to clarify the issue for their partners and urge them not be discouraged by the bad news.

<give us your questions. Lets get this out in the open. Lets talk about it. Lets clear it up.>

The only question came from Patricia Walker, whose non profit is also a promise neighborhood partner.

<when you talk about a million dollars and you talk about a check and you talk about the fact that promise neighborhood was going to have a physical location that involved that million dollars and that check, I was concerned about how that impacts us going forward.>

Jimmie Sammuel president of PICD wouldn't speak about the million dollars and his arrangement with the school district-- but he did try to defend his group.

<PICD we've been transparent above board. If you've ever been through one of these bond things, every body and their momma look at it. The judge has to approve it, the bank has to approve it the DA has to approve it. It's all above board>

Part of Walker's answer came from Diana Glymph, chair of the initiative's advisory board.

<the controversy is not about the families and it's not about the services to the families, it is an outside controversy that is tied to a project within the promise neighborhoods and would be an asset to our work but the work is going on with or without the macon promise center.>

Glymph says the million dollars did not go to promise neighborhood, but she says the initiative is paying for it anyway in negative publicity.

<and honestly the residents are concerned that with this media coverage that the agencies, the services are gonna say we can't do this anymore and we're here to say today that's not what's gonna happen.>

MAyor robert reichert, representing the city of macon in the initiative, urged the partners to stay the course.

<it would restore pride it would restore hope it would break the cycle of intergenerational poverty which had been gripping us and pulling us down don't give up, nobody said it was gonna be easy dont give up. >

Later this year, Macon promise neighborhood plans to reapply for a federal grant of up to 30-million dollars over 5 years. But in the mean time, they'll continue implementing programs.

Overall Leah, the meeting took a positive note, and the promise neighborhood partners says they won't let controversy slow them down.

Thanks Candace, the story of that partnership between the school district and PICD continues Friday.

A judge will hear a lawsuit that in part, challenges the lease agreement of the old Ballard Hudson building.

There's still no word on what caused the fire...that gutted a Macon church overnight.

Here's some video from very early this morning...at the Reaching Souls Cathedral church.... off Rocky Creek Road and Bethesda Avenue.

Macon Bibb Fire authorities say the call came in around 12:30.

Fire investigators were still there...combing through the wreckage and assessing the damage.. well into the afternoon.

Officers with the federal Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms also arrived to investigate the fire.

Fire Sergeant Ben Gleaton says that's routine... because the federal agency investigates all church fires.

13WMAZ's Judy Le spoke with several members who grew up in the church but now have just their memories to hold on to.

<in the spring and summer, it was time to cut the grass. It was about four of five with push mowers in that back field right there. Lining up, one behind each other cutting grass. It was one of my memories. I can still visualize it in my mind now>

In 2008... the church's pastor, Onslow Ross, was convicted of dozens of federal charges, including bank fraud and money laundering.

Ross was charged with taking money from an insurance settlement for the church.

He was sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison.

The trial split Ross's congregation... with many members arguing that he'd done nothing wrong.

On this day in history, January 28, 1986, the American space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff, killing all seven crew members on board.

As the nation watched.. just 74 seconds after take-off from Cape Canaveral.. a ball of fire appeared at the base of the fuel tank. The shuttle was suddenly engulfed in flames and smoke.

Onboard with the crew was the first citizen observer, Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from new Hampshire.

Today... America remembers... 27 years later.

Stay with us.


A spokesman for Governor Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston says there's no way...G-O-P leaders will allow new gun restrictions to be adopted. But they also aren't endorsing proposals to lift restrictions that would allow students and staff to carry guns on college campuses.

However, Ralston *has* expressed interest in a proposal to allow school boards to give permission for certain administrators to carry guns, so long as they have received weapons training.

In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, business has been booming at gun stores...and numbers shore that up.

Eight of the ten busiest days for gun background checks last year happened in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.

The trend continued into this year ... where, over the last 6 weeks, background checks have reached the highest levels since 1998.

Background checks are considered the most reliable way to track gun sales.

Gun shop owners say the national debate about new gun control legislation has semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines flying off the shelves.

Earlier this month...we reported a dramatic increase in firearms permit applications in both Bibb and Houston Counties. Leah?

As state and federal legislators mull over gun control... More economic decisions are on the horizon in Washington.

The retired commander of Robins Air Force base spoke today about how sequestration... would hit Central Georgia communities in its pockets.

General Robert McMahon spoke on behalf of the twenty-first century partnership... the Warner Robins group that rallies support for the base.

He says they're already feeling the effects of sequestration with a civilian hiring freeze and the elimination of temporary or part-time employees.

the next step could be up to thirty unpaid furlough days for civilians.

On top of an increase in the Social Security tax... McMahon said that would add up to a pay cut of nearly 15 percent.

<<in a perfect world forty-five days from now each of you will have accused me of crying wolf and I pray that in fact that is what occurs >>

Across the board budget cuts will take affect March 1st... unless Congress agrees to a plan for budget cuts.


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