Many changes to code enforcement after WR officer's shooting

WARNER ROBINS — When code enforcement officer Beau Weathers was sitting up in a hospital bed a year ago, one of his thoughts was how his son was going to miss his annual birthday trip to St. Simons Island.

One thing that didn’t cross his mind, though, was quitting the job that had landed him in the hospital, especially after all the support he got from residents and city officials.

“I made a commitment four and a half years ago that I was going to help the blighted areas and keep property values up,” Weathers said. “The job is not done yet.”

April 23 marked the anniversary of the day Weathers was shot — and the day that changed the way codes are enforced in Warner Robins.

That day, Weathers was on a routine code enforcement call to remove junk cars when shotgun fire hit him in the face and arm. Capt. Bill Capps, who had accompanied Weathers on the call, scrambled to help him to safety behind three tow trucks.

Capps called for backup at the Ward Street home, which became the scene of a 10-hour standoff with a gunman who had holed up in the house after firing more shots.

Eventually, police were able to apprehend John Adcock, who faces numerous charges in the case, including attempted murder. Adcock is expected to face prosecution this summer.

Weathers was released from the hospital four days later. About a month afterward, he was back at work after plastic surgery and rehabilitation of his arm.

The episode changed how code enforcement operates not only in Warner Robins, but across the country.

Sgt. Eric Gossman, who happened to be off duty the day of the confrontation, said it created a whole new awareness about the potential dangers of code enforcement.

“It made officers aware that even the most mundane type of incident could become a violent circumstance,” Gossman said.

At the time, code enforcement operations were already being beefed up. After the shooting, the department started using the same record management system as the Warner Robins Police Department to track code violators and the number of offenses.

The code enforcement department began making education a part of the compliance process. Code violators receive a letter listing the particular code that they violated and alternatives for compliance.

The department also makes sure to take photographs of violations before a letter is sent out.

The department also changed its in-person approach. Each code enforcement officer now wears a bullet-proof vest and carries a police radio.

When arriving at an alleged violator’s property, a call must be made to dispatchers. When a junk car is being removed, a police officer must accompany the code enforcement officer.

Soon, the code enforcement office will have three police officers after code enforcement officer Mike Moriarty becomes certified, leaving Weathers as the only civilian.

Capps said the department’s aim is voluntary compliance, which is easier to get when violators are approached in a peaceful manner.

“The general public is working with us,” he said.

And Capps pointed out one other area where the department is changing. In the past, the city would often clean up properties where there was trash in a yard and grass and weeds were growing tall.

Those days are over.

“If we don’t get compliance, we’re going to prosecute,” Capps said.

To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 744-4236.