Clockwise from top left: Gwinnett County Police Officer Antwan Toney was killed in the line of duty; Lawrenceville resident Silling Man was found dead in Gwinnett Place Mall; former Buford City Schools Superintendent Geye Hamby resigned after a tape of him allegedy using racial slurs was published; Everton Blair became the first black member of the Gwinnett County Public Schools Board of Education; Marlene Fosque and Ben Ku, both Democrats, became the first people of color to be elected to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.
Photo: File photos
Photo: File photos

Gwinnett’s biggest, most important and most read stories of 2018

It’s been a wild year, Gwinnett County.

The year in news began with a dead body being found in the Gwinnett Place Mall and ended with the historic swearing-in of the county’s first non-white commissioners. In between, a referendum to expand MARTA was approved, a police officer was killed in the line of duty and the Buford City Schools superintendent resigned after a recording of a racist rant was released. 

Refresh your memory on the biggest, most-read and most important stories the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has covered in Gwinnett this year. There are certainly others, so comment with what you think was Gwinnett’s biggest story of 2018. 

Gwinnett elects first non-white county commission, school board members

Eight years after Gwinnett County officially became a majority minority county, three people became the first non-white members of Gwinnett’s board of commissioners and board of education.

Marlene Fosque and Ben Ku were both elected to the county commission and Everton Blair was elected to the board of education in the November elections. Fosque and Blair are African-American, and Ku is Asian-American. Ku is also the first openly gay member of the commission. Fosque and Ku were sworn in during a late December ceremony

All three candidates ran as Democrats. Fosque and Ku both defeated two-term Republican incumbents, and Blair won in an open race against a Republican candidate. 

Georgia State student killed at Gwinnett Place Mall

Police believe Silling Man was killed in a vacant food court restaurant around Nov. 30, 2017, but the public didn’t learn about the case until shortly after New Year’s Day. The information was scant at first: Gwinnett County police found the body of a young woman in the mall on Dec. 21. Her body was so badly decomposed that she wasn’t initially able to be identified.

The woman was identified on Jan. 10 as Silling Man, a Lawrenceville resident who was in her sophomore year at Georgia State University. The case was considered a suspicious death, but wasn’t declared a homicide until March.

The case laid quiet until June 15, when Emmett Davis, Jr., was charged with murder in connection with Man’s death. Davis was Man’s boyfriend, and they spent the months before her killing living in hotels near the mall. 

Acording to the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her chest was “restricted to the point where she couldn’t breathe, as if someone sat on her,” Gwinnett County Police Sgt. Jake Smith said. Davis’ arrest led to more details about Man’s death.

Davis was indicted on six charges including murder, in September and remains in the Gwinnett County Detention Center, where he’s been held without bond since his arrest. He has no upcoming court dates scheduled, according to the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office.

Gwinnett County police officer killed in the line of duty

Officer Antwan Toney responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle near Shiloh Middle School in Snellville on Oct. 20. When he approached the car, shots were fired, and he was killed. Toney’s killing launched a two-day manhunt that ended with the death of his alleged killer, 18-year-old Tafahree Maynard.

Police apprehended 19-year-old Isaiah Pretlow shortly after Toney was killed. Pretlow drove the car Maynard was in, according to police.

Around noon two days after the shooting, police found Maynard in a shed; he walked out wielding a lawnmower blade and would not put it down, police said. Officers first shocked him with a Taser and then shot him after he continued to move forward with the blade; he was six feet from officers when he was shot, police said. 

Toney had just celebrated his 30th birthday six days before his death. Ayers described him as a “bright shining star” with the police department.

Buford superintendent allegedly recorded using racial slurs

Buford City Schools superintendent Geye Hamby resigned in August a week after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published audio recordings that allegedly included Hamby using racial slurs and saying he wanted to kill black workers at a construction site. The recordings are part of a federal race discrimination lawsuit filed by a former district employee. 

Hamby was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 21, the day the recordings were made public. He resigned a week later. Days before, the district’s administrative offices were placed on lockdown due to a threat against Hamby

The district is still searching for a new superintendent, and has received 55 applications for the post. The district’s search committee is headed by Beauty Baldwin, a previous Buford City Schools superintendent and the first black woman to serve as a school superintendent in the state of Georgia. 

Gwinnett authorizes historic MARTA referendum

More than 30 years after Gwinnett County voters last rejected MARTA, a referendum to expand public transportation into the county will be held in March 2019. Gwinnett County commissioners officially approved the referendum in November after months of preparation.

MARTA’s board of directors approved a contract with the county in September. That contract will only go into effect if the referendum passes. The county could get heavy rail to Norcross — and possibly the Gwinnett Place area near Duluth — and expanded transit options across the county if residents vote yes. An October poll showed county residents were split on the issue.

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