HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sheriff’s Office released a written statement March 13, continuing to distance itself from what many in the community believe was a preventable tragedy. On the evening of Feb. 23, Hiawassee resident Terry Silvers crashed his Toyota truck head-on into a vehicle on NC-69, seriously injuring a grandmother and psychologically-damaging her granddaugter. Silvers died upon impact. A 911 caller that pursued Silvers, pleading for unanswered assistance from law enforcement, remains traumatized by the horrific event.
In the ill-received statement to citizens, Towns County Sheriff’s Office provided a list of “facts” which include mileage statistics, information on a simultaneous call issued for a possible prowler in progress, and reminded that although the call for help originated in Georgia, the fatal accident occurred in North Carolina.
In the statement, Towns County Sheriff’s Office claims that a sheriff’s office deputy was not specifically assigned or dispatched to a reckless driver. “Towns 911 dispatch gave a lookout to any and all law enforcement officers who may have been in the area of Highway 76 and Highway 17 to be on the lookout for a reckless driver,” the statement reads. Towns County Sheriff’s Office Deputy 112, Greg Joseph, however, was the sole deputy assigned to the area in question at the time that the transmitted emergency “lookout” for Silvers’ Toyota pickup was issued.
In addition, Towns County Sheriff’s Office states, “The horrifying details that can be heard on the 911 tape as the caller describes to the dispatcher the way the subject is driving was not given or described in the lookout.” In the embedded audio, Towns County 911 is heard relaying to law enforcement that a “small, white Toyota truck” is “reckless driving” and “pulling into the Cornerstone BP.” Dispatch verbalizes that the vehicle is said to be occupied by a “Silvers’ subject.”
Undisputed by those who have listened to the disturbing 911 audio is the fact that Deputy Joseph’s patrol siren can be heard bypassing the 911 caller in lieu of a possible prowler, an incident which two officers had covered.
Within the 911 audio , Towns County Sheriff’s Deputy 116 Eddie Spradlin, along with Hiawassee Police Officer 305 John Carter, voiced radio reponses to 911 dispatch in reference to the potential prowler on Clark Drive, prior to the fatal be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) for Silvers’ vehicle. Furthermore, Towns County 911 asks for the combined status of Deputy 116 and Officer 305 three separate times.
Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton claimed, however, that western-zoned Deputy Joseph was unaware that two officers had responded because “the city officer never advised the 911 Center by radio that he was enroute.” Hiawassee Police Department informed FYN that the city officer responded to the call to assist from Towns County Deputy Spradlin in order to shorten response time. The county deputy and city officer were actively clearing the residence at the time that the BOLO for Terry Silvers’ vehicle was issued.
A troubling detail which preceded the deadly accident is the fact that Silvers was released without charges the evening prior to the fatality by the same deputy who raced past Silvers’ vehicle the following day. Several witnesses, including a Union County deputy whose fence was damaged when Silvers’ truck veered off the roadway, attested that Silvers was clearly under the influence of intoxicants the night before his death. Records show that Silvers had a history of accidents, and despite widespread knowledge of drug use, the father of six was repeatedly released without charges by Towns County Sheriff’s Office.
Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton posted Deputy Joseph’s body camera footage from Feb. 22 on the internet, causing widespread scrutiny in response to the handling of the incident. In the video, Silvers apologizes to the deputy for having to respond to the incident. “Well, I’d rather come out here and do this than having to pick your body up somewhere,” Deputy Joseph replied. “But you need to quit driving.” Approximately 24 hours later, Silvers was killed in the head-on collision.
Also questionable in the minds of the community was a released, recorded phone conversation between Towns County Sheriff’s Deputy 116 Eddie Spradlin – the eastern-zoned officer – and the 911 dispatcher, shaming the emergency operator for issuing a BOLO during the potential prowler incident. FYN published the controversial transmission along with the frantic 911 call for assistance last week.
“The Towns County deputies on duty and working on Feburary 23rd acted and responded appropriately as to the information that they had been given at the time,” Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton stated, offering condolences to Silvers’ family and sympathy toward the victims of the crash.
Due to overwhelming outcry, FYN remains on special assignment and will continue to actively investigate the circumstances surrounding Towns County Sheriff’s Office involvement in the tragic case.
Results of a toxicology report, ordered on Silvers by North Carolina Highway Patrol, are expected in coming weeks.