AJC Deja News: Gwinnett fires entire police force (1969)

A review of the news that made The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s front pages through the decades.

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Today’s AJC Deja News comes to you from the Thursday, Feb. 20, 1969 edition of The Atlanta Constitution.


GWINNETT DISMISSES ALL OF ITS 25 POLICE AFTER CHIEF QUITS

A near-decade of departmental turmoil came to a head in Gwinnett when county commissioners fired the entire police force, which numbered 25 men, after accepting the resignation of Police Chief Jimmy Kilgore in February 1969. Veteran DeKalb County detective John Crunkleton was hired to lead the troubled force.

Today, 813 sworn officers make up the Gwinnett County Police Department, serving a population of approximately 920,360. In 1970, though, Gwinnett was home to only 73,670 people.

Constitution staff writer Bob Hurt wrote that the former officers would be considered for re-employment, but the decision to dismiss all members of the force “came as a complete surprise to the county policemen.” Georgia State Patrol officers and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents were ordered to handle policing duties in Gwinnett until the reorganization could be completed.

“The dissension-torn Gwinnett department has been reorganized four times under new chiefs since three Gwinnett County policemen were handcuffed together and murdered in 1964,” Hurt wrote. Jerry Everett, Marvin Gravitt and Ralph Davis were investigating a "suspicious activity" call near Norcross in April 1964 when they were handcuffed together and shot with their own weapons. Two of the three men involved, including a former Gwinnett sheriff’s deputy, were convicted of the killings and sent to prison.

There have only been five Gwinnett County Police officers killed in the line of duty -- the three 1964 murders, the 1993 vehicular assault death of Officer Christopher Magill and the shooting death of Officer Antwan Toney in October 2018. 

After the murders, the department found itself mired in what two commissioners termed “factionalism and division” within the ranks. 

What ultimately spurred county officials to take such a dramatic step? The spectacle of 11 officers walking off the job when Kilgore replaced Chief Bobby Plunkett surely didn’t help. Nor did the fact that Plunkett resigned after only three weeks.

FBI agent Barney Ragsdale points to a burned, stolen car found near the scene where three Gwinnett policemen were slain in April 1964. The Gwinnett County Police officers slain were Jerry R. Everett, Marvin Jesse 'Pop' Gravitt and Ralph K. Davis. (MARION JOHNSON/AJC File)
Photo: MARION JOHNSON/AJC

“A lack of confidence in the Gwinnett County police department has been manifested in interviews by the commission with the grand jury, court officials, civic leaders and the citizenry in general,” commissioners said in a statement after the mass firing.

Meanwhile, the Constitution didn’t have much luck getting the officers’ side of things.

“A former county policeman who answered the police department phone Wednesday afternoon was asked about the dismissals,” Bob Hurt wrote. “He said, ‘Don’t ask me. I don’t even work here anymore. I’m just answering the telephone.’”


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