COVINGTON, Ga. — The late Almond Turner was called a "giant" in the community during his funeral service Monday morning, Dec. 2, at Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers, and with hundreds of people in attendance to honor his legacy, there was no doubt he was one.
Covington police Chief Stacey Cotton highlighted Turner's law enforcement career, from the pranks on new hires to his promotion as the first African American assistant police chief in 1997 because of the “content of his character."
Turner held numerous positions at the Covington Police Department — he was promoted to lieutenant in the Investigation Division in 1978 and then to captain in 1984. He was a member of the original Newton County/Covington SWAT team.
Prior to his retirement in 2016, Turner was the longest tenured employee in the city with 45 years of service.
“I know that Almond’s life was destined for something special. As I was composing this speech, I thought of how I would say goodbye to Almond," Cotton said. "I thought it would be well into his 90s like his mother. I, like you, never thought it would be this soon. Then it dawned on me that if Almond had lived to the ripe old age then his message wouldn’t be as clear to us.
"You see what each of you know about Almond, what has already been said and all those lives he has touched, him leaving has snapped us to a level of attention that might otherwise have passed us by. In his almost 70 years, Almond has made a profound impact on so many lives. We are a better community because of Almond Turner.”
To his 10 grandchildren, Turner was a superhero.
"I had no problem telling anybody who my grandfather was because I'm so proud of everything he's done for us and everyone else. He was a very awesome man," Annesia Barrett said. "Now I can go on for days and days about him and his many antics but I'll save all that to say this: we love him so much. We couldn't have asked or dreamed of a better grandfather. He did so much for us. He was our rock. He was our superhero."
Turner was a sixth-term board member for the Newton County Board of Education. He was first elected to serve in 1996 and continued to serve until his death.
Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey honored Turner with the Superintendent Coin of Distinction, which is awarded to people who are "heroes, dedicate their lives to serving others, go above and beyond, seek nothing in return for their actions and deeds and serve as an example to be emulated," she said.
The Coin of Distinction has been awarded by the school system in two other instances.
"Mr. Turner was so many things to so many people. He was our school system's and community's superman. He was patient and kind. [He was] truthful, unselfish, trustworthy, dedicated and forgiving," Fuhrey said. "But at his core, Mr. Turner was a teacher. He spent his life teaching everyone who had the great fortune to interact with him. Whether we were personally talking to him, having casual conversation or in a professional setting, he was a master teacher. He was unselfish with his time, wisdom and love."
The eldest son of Turner, Dwahn, praised his father for all he had been in his lifetime, but he also touched on a widespread topic: stricter gun laws. His father tragically passed away the night of Nov. 23 in Meridian, Mississippi, after being fatally shot by his nephew with an AK-47.
"Do I stand here and pump my fist for the ban of assault-style rifles? Or champion the calls for stiffer gun laws?" He asked. "Do I stand here and tell you that mental illness is real, and we need to ensure those suffering with it get the help they need so tragedies like this will never, ever happen again to one of your loved ones?"
The eldest son called his late father a "giant," indicating the impact he left on everybody in the community.
"Today, we laid to rest a giant," he said. "A giant of a man. A giant of a community leader. A giant of a father. A giant of a husband. A giant of a brother. There will never be another Almond James Turner."
Springfield Baptist Church Rev. Dr. Eric Lee echoed the eldest son's words regarding the attack on the late Turner.
"Truth be told, I'm struggling this afternoon because of the attack," he said. "I'm dealing with the fact that he's gone, but it's compounded by the sinister way he was taken from us — tragically, cowardly. We are left traumatized by the image of his final moments, of his final breaths. So I'm dealing with the absence, and I'm dealing with the attack. It's a battle on multiple fronts.
"Truth be told, I'm also dealing with anger. I'm angry about the actions of one man, yes, but I'm also angry about the repeated absence of systemic safeguards that have failed to protect us from this kind of madness once again. Mental health, common sense background checks — whatever you want to call it. I'm dealing with the absence, I'm dealing with the attack and I'm dealing with the anger. We must come to terms of all of these reactions and all of these emotions they provoke in us."
Almond Turner was buried at Lawnwood Cemetery in Covington with military funeral honors.