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Clayton pastor charged with impersonating officer

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

The pastor of a Jonesboro church was arrested and charged with impersonating a police officer after he allegedly flashed a phony badge, recently, when stopped by a Georgia State Trooper in Douglasville.

Anthony James McMichael, 58, is pastor of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, located at 8818 Tara Blvd., in Jonesboro, and at 1025 McDonough Blvd. in Atlanta, according to the church's web site.

According to a Georgia State Patrol incident report, McMichael was pulled over by a state trooper for speeding, Oct. 21, on Chapel Hill Road in Douglasville.

McMichael presented the officer with his license, a gold, star-shaped, Clayton County Sheriff's Office badge, and a picture I.D. card that identified him as a Clayton County Sheriff's deputy, according the police report. The officer said that the back of the I.D. card displayed the signature of former Clayton County Sheriff, Victor Hill.

"I asked the offender if he was still a deputy, and he stated, yes," the officer wrote. "The offender advised me that since he was a Chaplain with the Clayton County Sheriff's Office, he has not had time to drop by the office to get a new one [I.D. card]."

The trooper gave McMichael a verbal warning, and sent him on his way, the report states. However, the officer said he later called the Clayton County Sheriff's Office and found out that McMichael is not currently a deputy in Clayton County.

The officer wrote that, according to the Clayton County Sheriff's Office, the office had previously contacted McMichael on March 31, and asked him to return the old I.D. card and badge to the Sheriff's office, but that he did not do so. The state trooper then obtained a warrant for McMichael's arrest, according to the report. McMichael was booked in the Douglas County Jail, and bonded out on Oct. 31, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

A message left Wednesday evening at a phone number listed as McMichael's home number was not returned. Following McMichael's arrest, authorities searched his home, and seized the badge and I.D. card, according to Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough.

According to Kimbrough, when Victor Hill was still sheriff, he purchased badges that were identical to Clayton County Sheriff's deputies' badges and gave them out to various people, including "people who contributed to his campaign and people who were his friends."

"We found a partial list in some of the paperwork. All those people, we contacted, and gave them an opportunity to return them," Kimbrough said. "We had a few people that took us up on that, but the rest, including this guy [Anthony McMichael] said they no longer had the badges and I.D.'s, or something along that line."

Kimbrough said the partial list had approximately 40 names of people who had the badges, but the total number of badges handed out to non-deputies was around 80 to 85. "One of the employees told us that he had purchased 80 to 85 badges right before the election last year, and we haven't found those badges," Kimbrough said.

He said a "handful" of badges -- 10 or fewer -- had been recovered, he said. In light of the missing badges, in March, Kimbrough issued new badges to all of the Clayton County sheriff's deputies, replacing the old, six-point-star badge with a seven-point badge. He said the seven-point badge will help identify legitimate sworn officers of the sheriff's office. In addition, each of the new badges displays a badge number, for better accountability, he said.

The sheriff said the missing badges are part of an ongoing investigation into items that were unaccounted for at the end of Hill's term, including missing weapons and keys.

Kimbrough said he was not at liberty to say which agencies are conducting the investigation. "It's my office along with some other law enforcement agencies," he said.

He said records show that items, including weapons, are unaccounted for. "The county purchased them and paid for them," he said. "They're on a master asset list ... They were shipped on this date, and this time [for example], but they're not here."

The missing weapons include "mostly pistols, service pistols ... the type we would carry, and at least one assault rifle," Kimbrough said.

"As a citizen of Clayton County, myself, I expect for public officials to be good stewards of taxpayers' dollars," he said, "so I'm upset that we're still having to deal with all these things. I'm doing the best I can to track down how that money was spent, and where these items are, so the dollars can be spent on what it should be, and that is to keep Clayton County safe."