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July Fourth holiday a relatively safe one
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According to Newton County Sheriff Joe Nichols, residents enjoyed a safe and relatively uneventful Fourth of July.

"Amazingly smooth," Nichols said. "Nothing like some of the holidays of the past."

For the holiday, crime was below average, Nichols said. No citations were issued for using fireworks, but Nichols said that did not mean they were not fired off. A few complaints were made, but by the time deputies arrived, the users had stopped or could not be definitively identified.

Covington Fire Department Chief Don Floyd described the weekend as very quiet.

"To my knowledge, there were no fires started by fireworks reported to us," Floyd said.

Nichols said deputies would still be out in full force for the weekend, but he did not expect an increase in arrests following the slow holiday.

Even though the holiday was safer than expected, some crime still occurred, plenty of which was directly related to drinking. Several people were arrested on charges related to the consumption of alcohol the day before, the day of and the day after the holiday.

 On July 3 the running of a stop sign lead to an arrest for DUI. Covington Police Officer James Moore was traveling westbound on Newton Drive when he observed a black Chevrolet Blazer fail to stop for a stop sign at the intersection of Mill Street. Moore initiated a traffic stop and the Blazer parked in front of the YMCA Daycare.

As the driver, Biala Sherif, rolled down the window, Moore smelled alcohol coming from the SUV. Moore asked Sherif he had been drinking, but the driver replied he had not. Sherif then stated he had been drinking the night before.

Moore told the driver to exit to the rear of the vehicle. In his report, Moore notes Sherif paused while getting out in an apparent effort to get himself together and stay balanced. Once at the back of the Blazer, Moore advised Sherif why he had been pulled over. Sherif denied the claim, stating he had stopped for the stop sign.

Moore then asked Sherif to perform some field sobriety tests. Sherif agreed to the tests but reportedly failed them all. At one point, Sherif miscounted going from 17 to 20.

Sherif was placed under arrest and transported to the Newton County Detention Center where he blew a .176 and a .179 during the breath test. He was charged with DUI less safe, DUI per se and a traffic stop violation.

On July Fourth a man was arrested for public drunk while bonding his wife out of jail. Covington Police Officer Asher Dozier was dispatched to the Newton County Sheriff's Office in response to a possible public drunk.

When he arrived on scene, Dozier made contact with Billy Stargel, who was at the Sheriff's Office to bond out his wife, Barbara Dollarhyde. Dollarhyde had been arrested a few minutes prior to the incident.

In the incident report, Dozier notes Stargel was obviously drunk. Reportedly, Stargel repeatedly stumbled through the parking lot and had very slurred speech. Dozier also able to establish that Stargel had urinated on himself, as well as on the rear passenger side tire of his truck, while in the parking lot. Son Jared Stargel was also in the truck.

A search by Dozier of the vehicle revealed a partially empty Solo cup containing beer. The father claimed ownership of the cup and its contents.

Billy Stargel was placed under arrest and issued a citation for public drunk and open container.

Just after midnight on July 5, a short pursuit ended in DUI. While patrolling the area of Turner Lake Road, Covington Police Officer Joseph Parkin observed a sliver truck pass a vehicle illegally near the intersection of Brown Bridge Road. The truck then rapidly accelerated down the road.

Parkin turned his car around and began to pursue the truck. During the chase, Parkin reached a top speed of 86 mph in order to gain distance on the truck.

Parkin reached the truck on Flat Shoals Road. Contact was made with the driver, Edward Richardson. He was subsequently arrested for DUI, reckless driving and improper passing.