Detention Officer William Whitaker of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Firefighter Andre Rogers of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department and Officer Terrance Epps of the Atlanta Police Department each received awards.
Whitaker was honored for acting quickly Sept. 23 to arrest Andreay Baity, a dental assistant working as a contractor at the Fulton County Jail in downtown Atlanta. She was caught smuggling contraband into the facility. Whitaker, who joined the department in December, was monitoring the jail’s seventh floor, the maximum-security section, and noticed unusual behavior by Baity. Baity went into a sanitation closet, which seemed odd because medial staff have a separate room to get supplies and wash their hands.
Whitaker notified new Deputy Jimmy Kennedy, who also started to watch the woman. They also noticed inmates were eyeing the same closet for no legitimate reason. After Baity left the floor, Whitaker entered the closet and found a large amount of contraband hidden inside. During an interrogation by sheriff’s office investigators, Baity confessed to the crime.
Whitaker’s actions both led to her arrest and helped determine how contraband enters the jail.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said of the award. “I want to thank Sheriff [Ted] Jackson and the rest of the staff, including Sgt. Rodney Harp, for making it all possible.”
Rogers, who has spent 11 years with the department and spent a year serving in the war zone in Iraq as a specialist in the Army, was honored for his service to Atlanta Fire Rescue. He has volunteered with several organizations, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association Children’s Camp, Big Brothers Big Sisters Atlanta, Life Skills Mentoring Program and the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. He helped established the Story Time at Station 23 since moving to that station in March.
He also volunteered to work in the EMS Section and has served a 40-hour work week to back up Lt. Kenny Fears while on vacation.
“Firefighter Rogers is always ready to volunteer for events such as the [Executive Development Institute] Conference, off-duty training and out-of-class job assignments,” his supervisor, Capt. Scott Blackwell, said in a statement.
Rogers said he was surprised by the honor.
“It’s still amazing and very humbling,” he said. “I didn’t expect it. It’s a great feeling.”
Epps was honored for arresting a suspect accused of burglarizing and robbing several residents. In April through June, Zone 2, which includes all of Buckhead, had several burglaries with a unique pattern. All occurred in apartment complexes and all had the door’s peepholes removed. Epps worked with apartment complexes’ staff to get any available video of a suspect.
In May a suspect entered an apartment where the victim was sleeping. The victim confronted the suspect, who then pulled a gun on him, threatened him and stole some items. The victim was able to work with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to produce a good sketch of the suspect. Epps and Officer Severance distributed the sketch to the affected complexes. They were then able to obtain security video of the suspect in the hallway entering an apartment and leaving with a gray bicycle.
June 19, while driving to a meeting, Lt. Rodney Woody saw a man fitting the suspect’s description. He radioed Epps, who came and spoke with the suspect on Peachtree Road near the Westin hotel in Buckhead. The suspect identified himself as Johnny Cleckley but said he had no ID on him. Epps radioed the dispatch operator with his name and the operator said there was a warrant out for Cleckley’s arrest.
Epps started to handcuff Cleckley, who then struggled with him. Cleckley then produced a handgun and pointed it at Epps, who drew his own gun and fired several shots at Cleckley striking him several times. Cleckley was arrested and transported to Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta with severe injuries. Cleckley was positively identified by several burglary and robbery victims and linked to several crimes in Buckhead. He is a convicted felon who already has spent several years in prison.
Mark Shaver, the association’s vice president for public safety, presented the awards.
“These folks literally put their lives on the line for us every day,” he said after the luncheon. “Ninety-eight percent of the time, things are pretty quiet. But when we have things happen like we heard about today, there is no one else who will come and help us or protect us. If these people are willing to do this kind of work every day, the least we can is to stop … and express our appreciation to them for what they do.”