U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker regularly praises police officers. But was Walker in law enforcement himself?
In at least three speeches delivered before he entered politics, Walker claimed he was, the AJC’s Shannon McCaffrey reports.
“I worked in law enforcement, so I had a gun. I put this gun in my holster and I said, ‘I’m gonna kill this dude,’” Walker said at a 2013 suicide prevention event for the U.S. Army. (Walker was describing a 2001 incident when he took his gun to pursue a man who was late delivering a car. That incident, Walker said, led him to seek mental health treatment.)
In a 2017 speech, Walker got more specific. “I work with the Cobb County Police Department, and I’ve been in criminal justice all my life,” he said.
Later, in 2019, he said he was an FBI agent. “I spent time at Quantico at the FBI training school. Y’all didn’t know I was an agent?” he said at a speech to soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.
And he also once told Irving, Tex. police he was “a certified peace officer,” according to a 2000 police report involving a conflict with an intoxicated man.
So, what’s the real story? Walker’s campaign said he majored in criminal justice during his time at the University of Georgia and was an honorary deputy in Cobb County along with three other Georgia counties. (They did not specify which ones.)
The Cobb County Police Department said they have no record of involvement with Walker. The Cobb sheriff’s office could not immediately say if he was an honorary deputy or not.
But former DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan said even if he was, that would give him no law enforcement authority. “It’s like a junior ranger badge,” he said.
Morgan said that many sheriffs in Georgia stopped handing out such honors amid concern that people would use the paperwork to impersonate police officers, a felony in Georgia.
Walker was also never an FBI agent, which would require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Walker left UGA before earning his degree.
Asked to clarify, the Walker campaign provided Associated Press stories from 1989 – as Walker was retiring from pro football – when he said that he spent a week at an FBI school in Quantico, Virginia. Special Agent training requires a minimum of 20 weeks at Quantico.
“They had an obstacle course and you shoot at targets to protect your partner as you advanced up the course,” he told The AP. “I had fun. There were about 200 recruits there.”
The FBI did not respond when asked to verify the account.
Walker’s direct relationship with law enforcement has not always been smooth. In September 2001, he threatened a shootout with officers responding to a domestic disturbance at his Texas home, according to a police report.
Spokeswoman Mallory Blount said for years Walker has spoken to police about mental health and led women’s self-defense training. ”Herschel has always supported our law enforcement,” she said.
DEMS SPLIT ON GUN DEAL. Senate negotiators struck a breakthrough compromise on gun safety measures over the weekend. It stops short of sweeping changes envisioned by Democrats, but would be a modest step toward curbing access to firearms.
The agreement reached by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats and backed by the White House also exposed policy differences among Georgia’s top Democratic candidates.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, up for re-election in November, endorsed the compromise in a tweet, saying “inaction isn’t an option.” “Glad we’ve come this far—now, let’s get this done.”
But Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor, sounded more skeptical on Sunday when asked about the package.
“I’ve seen information about the Senate proposals. And while it is important that we see some progress in gun legislation, it is insufficient for the challenges we face here in Georgia,” said Abrams, pivoting to a pledge to impose new restrictions in Georgia.
“We have the most porous laws, laws that have allowed guns on our campuses, for our schools, guns everywhere in our communities,” she said. “And because of this governor we have also seen the very few limits on who can access those guns be removed.”
The Senate negotiators’ outline hasn’t yet been finalized, though supporters are acting with urgency to break a years-long congressional impasse on the issue.
Their Republican opponents were noncommittal. Gov. Brian Kemp’s office declined comment until the final language is released. Herschel Walker, the GOP Senate nominee, welcomed the bipartisanship and said he was encouraged the framework includes strengthening mental health programs and school safety.
“But at this point, it’s just that — a framework. With these DC politicians you always have to check the fine print,” he said. “So I’ll be looking closely at the specifics of the entire legislation once it’s made public.”
THE DETAILS. Here’s what the outline includes.
· Enhanced federal background checks with mental health and juvenile justice records buyers younger than 21.
· Funding for states to incentivize “red flag laws” that allow authorities to temporarily seize weapons from a person a judge deems them to be a threat to themselves or others.
· Funding for mental health resources and school security.
· A new ban on gun sales to certain domestic violence offenders.
· Tighter definitions for gun sellers to comply with background check requirements.
· New criminal penalties for gun traffickers and straw purchasers.
NOT INCLUDED: Broader background checks, new limits on which weapons can be sold, a mandatory federal red flag rule, or a higher minimum age limit to purchase certain rifles.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING: Are Republican officials on the same page as Republican voters as they refuse to embrace more substantial gun restrictions? We ponder the state of the gun debate in Georgia.
JAN. 6 TESTIMONY. Former U.S. Attorney Byung “BJay” Pak will be a witness at today’s Jan. 6 Committee hearing at 10 a.m.
Pak wouldn’t divulge what he plans to say, but he will surely be pressed about the circumstances that led to his Jan. 4, 2021 resignation, when he stepped down amid pressure to investigate false claims of election fraud in Georgia.
For your calendar: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his deputy Gabe Sterling are set to testify before the committee next week.
COBB COUNT. The election chief in Cobb County has been subpoenaed to testify before the Fulton County special grand jury investigating possible election interference by Donald Trump and his allies.
Janine Eveler told the AJC’s Tamar Hallerman that she isn’t sure why the special grand jury wants to speak with her. That review found no evidence of fraud.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the Jolt wrote that Donald Trump and Mark Meadows contacted Eveler during a December 2020 audit of Cobb County ballots. Those contacts were with a different elections official, not with Eveler. We regret the error.
- Stacey Abrams promised to boost teacher pay by $11,000 if she’s elected governor, which would bring the minimum salary for public school educators to $50,000. Republicans predicted she would have to raise taxes to pull off the $1.65 billion program, though she insists she won’t.
- Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Atlanta and other cities in Georgia and across the nation to demand new steps to curb gun violence.
- Abrams and Gov. Brian Kemp took starkly different approaches to address mass shootings at a Georgia School Board Association meeting in Savannah on Saturday.
- U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson held their Academy Day for hundreds of prospective Georgia applicants to the U.S. service academies at Dobbins Air Reserve Base;
- State Sen. Burt Jones, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, joined former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler at the opening of a Citizens for Greater Georgia field office in north Fulton.
Jones was also one of the few nominees who showed up at the Georgia GOP’s candidate summit, yet another sign of the lack of trust in chair David Shafer’s leadership.
EARLYBIRDS. Early voting for the June 21 Georgia runoffs starts today. Polling locations are likely to be the same as your primary early voting station, but county registrars make the final call. Check with your county for any questions.
And remember that you cannot switch party ballots between the primary and the runoff, but you can still vote in the runoff, even if you did not vote in the primary at all.
6TH DISTRICT DECISION. Former state Rep. Meagan Hanson has endorsed Dr. Rich McCormick in the 6th Congressional District GOP runoff over Jake Evans.
In her pick of McCormick, she said, “Neither Dr. McCormick nor I were born into privilege, we’ve had to work for everything we’ve achieved in life. Over the course of this campaign, I have been impressed by Dr. McCormick’s work ethic and his commitment to our shared conservative values.”
YOU AGAIN. Democrats have long mocked Gov. Brian Kemp for invoking Stacey Abrams’ name at any opportunity. A new 30-second digital spot highlights each time Kemp invoked her name in the GOP primary debates.
Today in Washington:
- The House Jan. 6 Committee holds its second hearing, including with former U.S. Attorney Byung “BJay” Pak on the agenda.
- The Senate has scheduled a procedural vote on legislation that expands services for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service.
COMEBACK. Former state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey made The New York Times over the weekend in a huge feature about her family business’s comeback story.
Stuckey talks about that and her proud moment of being recognized as “that pecan log roll lady” on social media.
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