Hiawassee, GA – Bodycam video captured the moment Towns County Sheriff Kenneth Henderson interrupted a Hiawassee police sergeant’s traffic stop in June and started screaming at him (video below).
The Towns County Sheriff’s Officer and the Hiawassee Police Department have had an ongoing dispute over boundaries for traffic stops, WXIA reported.
The sheriff’s department has accused Hiawassee officers of pursuing suspects and traffic violators outside of the city limits.
The two agencies use the same dispatch center but have no other overlap of command, WXIA reported.
The argument between the two law enforcement officers occurred when Sheriff Henderson stopped to find out what was going on during a traffic stop that Hiawassee Police Sergeant Tracy James had made on June 24.
Sgt. James had just handed the driver of the vehicle he’d stopped a citation when the sheriff rolled up and started asking his own questions, WXIA reported.
Bodycam video from Sgt. James showed that Sheriff Henderson approached the driver’s window and asked him if he’d been pursed from inside the city limits or stopped right where he was.
The sheriff thanked the driver and then turned to start lecturing Sgt. James.
But the Hiawassee police sergeant wasn’t having it, the video showed.
“Go pull the video at Bolero,” Sgt. James told him.
But the video showed the sheriff wasn’t listening and pointed his finger at the sergeant in a threatening manner.
“You get on my traffic stop again, I will arrest you!” Sgt. Tracy James told Sheriff Henderson.
“I’ll arrest you right now,” the sheriff retorted.
“Do it, buddy. Do it,” the sergeant said as the bodycam showed him walking away from Sheriff Henderson and back to his patrol vehicle.
But bodycam showed the sheriff wasn’t letting him leave so easily.
Sgt. James tried again to explain to the sheriff that traffic cameras would prove that he had initiated the traffic stop within city limits, the video showed.
“There’s cameras at Bolero and there’s cameras at Napa that…” he started to explain but the sheriff cut him off.
“Shut your f-king mouth,” Sheriff Henderson told the police sergeant, referring to him as “boy” more than once.
“Don’t talk to me like that, I’m not your ‘boy,’” Sgt. James shot back.
But that only made the sheriff angrier, the video showed.
“You’re a f-kboy! You’re a f-kboy,” Sheriff Henderson yelled at Sgt. James.
The video showed that the sheriff followed the sergeant to his vehicle and continued yelling at him the entire time.
Instead of yelling back, Sgt. James thanked the sheriff a few times as he jumped back into his cruiser.
Sgt. James did not lose his temper during the exchange and didn’t use any foul language until after he was back inside his vehicle with the door shut.
At that point, bodycam video showed he called Sheriff Henderson a “motherf-ker,” WXIA reported.
Hiawassee is a tiny city on Lake Chatuge in Towns County, near the North Carolina border.
Sources told WXIA that Hiawassee is so small, many drivers don’t stop for police until after they have crossed out of the city limits, WXIA reported.
It wasn’t the first time that Sheriff Henderson has gotten into it with the same Hiawassee officer.
Sources told WXIA that on Memorial Day weekend, the sheriff ordered Sgt. James to stop a pursuit that had crossed out of the city limits and the sergeant ignore his order.
Hiawassee Police Department policy allows an officer in “hot pursuit” to follow a suspect into another jurisdiction.
WXIA made an open records request for “recording(s) of Towns County Sheriff Kenneth ‘Ode’ Henderson talking with and/or about Hiawassee officer(s).”
One of the audio recordings that was released contained a clip of the sheriff telling his deputies that Hiawassee officers are “enemies” of the sheriff’s office and not to fraternize with them.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the Towns County District Attorney’s Office are looking into the conflict between the police department and the sheriff’s office, but it wasn’t clear if a formal investigation has been launched, WXIA reported.
“My advice to the sheriff at this time is to not make any statements because this will be an ongoing investigation,” Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker said. “The frustration exhibited by the sheriff on the video is a result of a broader issue and will be referred for further investigation by the proper authorities.”
Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith also issued a statement about the incident, WXIA reported.
“We regret that this unfortunate event occurred,” the statement read. “The Hiawassee Police Department will continue to strive for excellence in safety and service to our citizens and visitors while working with all public agencies to accomplish that goal.”
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. WARNING -Obscene Language: