Investigators: Richmond County "Deputy of the Year" admits to buying, using cocaine

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Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014

Deputy Austin Shepherd named 2013 Deputy of the Year (RCSO Facebook page)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Following investigation, criminal charges will not be filed against former Richmond County Sheriff's Office deputy and 2013 Deputy of the Year Austin Shepherd.

In a termination letter to Shepherd, the Sheriff's Office said he went into a known convicted drug dealer's home, Stephen Marquise Crawford, while on duty in March 2012. He was questioned, but said he went into the home to trade video games with his longtime friend.

After a drug charge sentencing, Crawford told investigators around Dec. 19, 2013 that Shepherd had bought cocaine from him almost everyday around 2006. Crawford also told investigators that after Shepherd became a deputy, he continued to sell him cocaine while in uniform and in a patrol car at least once a week.

Crawford claimed Shepherd would trade confiscated drugs for cocaine from Crawford, as well.

Shepherd admitted to Major Scott Peebles on Dec. 30, 2013 that he had bought cocaine while in uniform and on duty "a couple dozen times," according to the release. Shepherd also said he used cocaine in college and lied about it on the pre-employment application.

Shepherd told Peebles he had not used cocaine since April 2012 after being confronted and denying allegations by former Sheriff Ronnie Strength.

Sheriff Strength previously said he remembered the former deputy being involved in a shooting in 2011 after a suspected burglar confronted him with a crowbar. The agency says Shepherd made 19 felony arrests from burglaries, narcotics and weapons offenses.

The Sheriff's Office said his actions are in direct violation of 3.71 (A) Code of Conduct and Appearance to include Alcohol and other Drug Misuse.

The Sheriff's Office said in a release there is not enough evidence available for a successful prosecution of criminal charges.

Officials fired Shepherd in 2013 for "activities that may be considered a violation of his Oath of Office."

Deputy Austin Shepherd named 2013 Deputy of the Year (RCSO Facebook page)
Stephen Crawford (WRDW-TV)

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