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Newton County deputy placed on leave following Facebook comments
Newton County Sheriff's Office
Newton County Sheriff's Office headquarters on Alcovy Road. - photo by Special to The Covington News

This report has been updated with additional information about reaction to the incident.

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown has ordered an internal investigation into allegations a sheriff's deputy took part in a social media conversation that included some apparent white residents discussing possibly shooting a group of Black youths riding on bicycles through their neighborhood.

The deputy, identified as Clay Stevens in a sheriff's office Facebook post Wednesday, was placed on administrative leave.

The sheriff's office said in a statement today, "Sheriff Ezell Brown and the Newton County Sheriff’s Office was made aware of a post circulating on Facebook that one of our deputies responded to.

"Like all other complaints, Sheriff Brown takes all complaints seriously and has acted immediately to ensure the integrity of the Office of the Sheriff. He has ordered an internal investigation and placed the deputy sheriff in question on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the internal investigation.

"As always, it is the practice of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office to treat everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, with dignity and respect and continue to build race relationships throughout our community and abroad.”

The deputy's comments allegedly were in answer to postings by others concerning a group of Black teens on bicycles who they said were taking photos of houses on Pickens Road in order to return for an unnamed crime.

In a posting shared on Facebook and credited to Stevens, the deputy allegedly asked one person posting on Facebook if there were "any black folks living on Pickens Rd.?" 

The deputy then said they were in front of the same person's house and stated they "don't look like Mormons to me," in reference to the practice of young Mormon church members going door to door on bicycles.

One Facebook user wrote commented that "I don't see a problem here. 

"Deputies are people too and they should be able to comment about things outside of official capacity as long as it's not inciting violence," she wrote. 

However, the incident conjured memories for some on social media about Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man a group of white residents confronted and eventually shot and killed in early 2020 in Brunswick.

One Facebook user, who said he helped bring the posts to the sheriff's office's attention, said, "Ahmad Arbery just was killed for being black running in a so-called White neighborhood."

"They can't twist it and say they were joking. They were actually talking about harming these kids," he wrote.

The group armed themselves with guns and used a pickup truck to chase Arbery after he ran past their home on Feb. 23, 2020, The Associated Press reported. Another joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of one of them shooting Arbery with a shotgun.

A state Superior Court judge imposed life sentences for all three men in January 2022 for Arbery’s murder, with two denied any chance of parole.