Georgia deputy facing termination over Ahmaud Arbery remark

A Middle Georgia deputy has been suspended without pay after a comment he reportedly made on social media last week about Ahmaud Arbery’s murder.

Houston County Deputy Paul Urhahn, a 20-year veteran of the department, faces termination after reportedly calling Arbery a criminal who got the death penalty.

The since-deleted comment was made on Macon television station WGXA-TV’s Facebook post about Arbery’s killers being sentenced to life in prison Friday afternoon in the high-profile case.

“That criminal Arbery still got the death penalty though,” Urhahn wrote, according to the news station. The backlash to the comment was swift, with scores of people online calling for the deputy’s firing.

ExploreComplete coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case

In a letter dated Monday, Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton told Urhahn he was “suspended without pay pending termination” after an internal investigation. Talton said he found the deputy violated multiple department policies governing employee conduct.

“Conduct unbecoming an officer shall include that conduct ... which has a tendency to destroy public respect for employees and confidence in the department,” the letter reads.

Urhahn, who joined the sheriff’s office in 2002, has until Jan. 20 to appeal the decision or he will be fired, the sheriff wrote.

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot to death in February 2020 after being chased through a Glynn County neighborhood by three white men in pickup trucks for about five minutes. The murder, captured on cellphone video, led to widespread demonstrations when the footage became public two months later.

Travis McMichael, who killed Arbery with two shotgun blasts; his father Greg, a former investigator with the local district attorney’s office; and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were convicted in November after a high-profile trial that lasted about seven weeks.

Greg and Travis McMichael were sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Arbery’s murder.

Bryan, the McMichaels’ neighbor who filmed the disturbing cellphone video of Arbery falling dead in the street, was given life in prison with the chance of parole. He will be 80 by the time he’s eligible for release.

The three men also face federal hate crimes charges in a trial set to begin Feb. 7.

— Atlanta Journal-Constitution data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this article.