A North Georgia police officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into any ties he might have with the Ku Klux Klan after racist posts he allegedly liked on Facebook surfaced, authorities confirmed to AJC.com.
Tommy Long, an officer with the East Ellijay Police Department since 2010, was placed on leave Thursday, Chief Larry Callahan said in a phone conversation Friday night.
East Ellijay is located in Gilmer County, about 80 miles north of downtown Atlanta.
An article published by the leftist group Atlanta Antifascists featured screenshots of Long liking multiple Facebook posts promoting the KKK in 2016 and 2017. That prompted the internal investigation.
Callahan said Long admitted the Facebook page belonged to him. However, he either denied or said he didn’t remember liking the KKK-related posts.
Callahan also said he had never witnessed Long act in a racist manner, and a review of Long’s arrest records showed no evidence of discriminatory policing.
“We’ve found nothing at this point that seems to be an issue,” Callahan said. “He probably didn't make some of his smartest decisions ... and we've heard rumors that he was a senior leader in the Klan, but that simply isn't true.”
Callahan said there’s no evidence Long was ever a member of the KKK.
“The only thing we've found is that he did have two Facebook friends with connections to the Klan — one of which he helped rescue from a flood while he was with the fire department,” Callahan said.
An article by HuffPost said Long was Facebook friends with six accounts that appear to belong to two KKK members: Imperial Wizard Charles Geoffrey Denton (aka “Cole Thornton”) and Grand Dragon Justin Stephen Owens (aka “Stephen Owens”).
After Atlanta Antifascists’ article was published, Long temporarily deactivated his Facebook account, HuffPost reported. He reactivated it Thursday, and his Facebook page was no longer friends with the two KKK members’ accounts. However, he had not un-liked the racist posts as of Thursday, HuffPost reported.
By Friday afternoon, AJC.com was not able to verify whether Long’s Facebook account was still active or if it had been deactivated again. AJC.com was unable to reach Long.
In February 2016, Denton posted a photo showing himself in a KKK robe with what appears to be a burning cross in the background, which Long liked, HuffPost reported.
In July of that year, Owens wrote in a Facebook post, “Are you upset about blm (Black Lives Matter) being in Georgia? You like to sit back and watch yet another city destroyed by these mongrels? Our state! Georgia with this crap going on! TAKE A STAND, SAVE OUR LAND, JOIN THE KLAN!...”
Long also liked that post, which links to the website for the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, HuffPost reported.
In December 2016, Owens posted a photo of a gold ring inscribed with the initials of the United Northern and Southern Knights and the blood drop cross symbol of the KKK, which Long also liked, HuffPost reported.
Then in January 2017, Long liked a post in which Denton wrote that he was “really tired of being called a racist” just because he is “in the Klan.” The post also said the KKK are just “separatists” who “believe all races should stick together, and not mix ...”
Long and Denton both commented on each other’s posts several times.
Denton did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, and Owens couldn’t be reached for comment. AJC.com attempted to reach Denton and Owens through their Facebook accounts but haven’t gotten a response.
About a month ago, two Spalding County jailers were fired after Atlanta Antifascists published their online comments expressing sympathy for Adolf Hitler and American neo-Nazism, AJC.com previously reported.
In other news:
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.