Bibb sheriff’s probe of Tobesofkee shooting nearly complete

A Bibb County Sheriff’s Office internal probe of a Lake Tobesofkee shooting investigation is not likely to yield additional disciplinary action, Sheriff David Davis said.

The Internal Affairs division is nearly finished with its examination of the department’s mishandling of a report of shots fired at fishermen March 21.

“Internal Affairs confirmed what we already knew,” Davis said.

Fishermen Shelby Smith, Adriel Miles Sr. and Adriel Miles Jr. reported up to 10 shots fired at them after 11 p.m. that Saturday night.

They saw a red beam from the gun but could not identify who was shooting from a balcony on a lake house.

When deputies knocked on the Ghali family home on Lotus Point Drive, Dr. Jalal Ghali would not let them in and told them to return the next day. But when deputies returned days later, they did not find a weapon, which jeopardized prosecution of the shooter, Davis previously said.

Basil Ghali was later identified as the suspect and turned himself in more than a month after the shooting. Because of the botched investigation, the 24-year-old initially was charged April 23 with reckless conduct with a firearm.

The next day, Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke upgraded the charge to aggravated assault based on a discussion with sheriff’s investigators.

Authorities said Ghali eventually admitted to firing shots that night and surrendered the .40-caliber handgun. His lawyer has said her client did not think anyone was on the water that night.

Davis said the internal investigation did not focus on the merits of the case but the handling of the incident by deputies and their supervisors.

The deputies who responded, Salim Abushanab and Theodore Gaines, were pulled from patrol and sent to work in the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center.

When gunshots were reported on the lake, Lt. Wilton Collins was still involved in an earlier shooting at Macon Gardens Apartments, where a man was shot in the head.

Although Collins reportedly told a lower ranking deputy to let him know if anything came of the report from the lake, it appears nothing further was communicated up the chain of command.

In the absence of a sergeant who was out sick, Cpl. Eric Avery apparently did not relay details of what happened at the lake. Avery was demoted and assigned to remedial training.

Davis has said Avery lacked proper training to be left solely in charge.

“What this situation showed is that we have a lot of young officers,” Davis said. “With this day and age, (supervisors) have got to go back and check.”

Collins was transferred from patrol to the Court Services Division, removed as commander of the sheriff’s office’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit and ordered to take remedial training.

Davis said he “could not fault” Capt. Chris Patterson’s lack of experience because he was promoted and assigned shortly before the incident. He must complete training, though.

Maj. Charles Stone was assigned remedial training, removed from his post as Patrol District Four supervisor and sent to the Detention Center.

Col. Henderson Carswell and Chief of Staff David Montford were urged to complete executive leadership training.

Although the final Internal Affairs report isn’t expected until the beginning of next week, Davis has been getting preliminary findings that led to last month’s disciplinary action.

Less than a week after the lake shooting, Bibb Chief Deputy Russell Nelson issued initial reprimands, Davis said.

The sheriff then called for the internal probe to closely and formally examine deputies’ actions that night and the supervisors’ handling of the case.

“I wanted to make sure these guys didn’t notify a supervisor,” Davis said. “It’s a learning experience and a teaching experience. I’m not one to hand out punishment just to hand out punishment.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.