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Posted on: Sunday, 2 May 2021
Sheriff's deputy boasted to extremists about beating Black man, called it 'sweet stress relief,' feds say
Wilkinson County, Georgia
   
 
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As federal investigators searched the phone records of a violent extremist in California last August, they discovered an unexpected voice of authority joining in a group chat with racist slurs and threats.

 

In texts with a group that called itself "Shadow Moses," a Georgia sheriff's deputy boasted about beating a Black man during an arrest, threatened to falsely charge Black people with felonies so that they could not vote, and advocated for killing politicians and others he viewed as political enemies, the FBI said in court documents.

 

This week, Cody Richard Griggers pleaded guilty to a weapons charge after federal agents uncovered his ties to a violent extremist group and found 11 unregistered firearm at his home and in his police car, the Department of Justice said in a statement on Wednesday. Griggers, 28, who was fired by the Wilkinson County Sheriff's Office last November, faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and will never work as a police officer again.

 

"This former law enforcement officer knew that he was breaking the law when he chose to possess a cache of unregistered weapons, silencers and a machine gun, keeping many of them in his duty vehicle," Acting U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary said in a statement. "Coupled with his violent racially motivated extreme statements, the defendant has lost the privilege permanently of wearing the blue."

 

Wilkinson Sheriff Richard Chatman told the Macon Telegraph that Griggers's stories about targeting Black people while on the job did not hold water and he suspected Griggers had lied to impress the other people in the extremist group's chat.

 

"That never happened," Chatman told the newspaper on Wednesday of Grigger's claim that he violently beat a Black man in an arrest.

 

The ex-deputy, who lived in Montrose, Ga., connected in chats with well-known extremists in California to fantasize about a "theoretical civil war" against liberals and Black, Muslim and other non-White Americans, according to charging documents filed by federal investigators. In a group chat, Griggers used racist slurs and echoed white supremacist ideas.

 

"On one hand it infuriates me," Griggers said in one text rant about his desire to see violence and chaos in America. "On the other hand I wanted to go ahead and fast-forward so I can enjoy the suffering of the abortion that is the American population."

 

Griggers told his associates in August 2019, more than a year before the 2020 general election that flipped two Georgia senate seats blue and helped cinch the presidency for Joe Biden, that he would target Black people with arrests in an effort to strip them of their voting rights.

 

"I'm going to charge them with whatever felonies I can to take away their ability to vote," he wrote.

 

In another exchange, Griggers boasted that he had "beat the s--- out of" a Black man he had arrested for allegedly stealing ammunition from a local gun store. He used slurs and described the attack as "sweet stress relief," according to federal investigators.

 

"Sheriff's dept said it look like he fell," Griggers told his group chat.

 

But Chatman said sheriff's office had no records of an arrest or call for service matching that description.

 

"We don't even have a gun shop here," he said. The sheriff added that Griggers had worked in the county jail and had never had a complaint filed against him.

 

In addition to the racist tirades, Griggers plotted to help an extremist group obtain weapons, including some devices that are only legal for law enforcement officials to use, the FBI said. He also shared videos that showed him shooting firearms on camera.

 

The group chat messages also revealed Griggers had discussed killing liberal politicians and minorities. He offered to teach another man how to build explosives and suggested he steal police supplies to sell to the group.

 

"I want to get [law enforcement] only stuff like flashbangs and entry charges and say I used them in training when I pocketed them," Griggers texted.

 

"Yeah I'll pay big money for bang [and] boom," Grey Zamudio, a member of a California-based group called Defend East County wrote back, according to an FBI affidavit. "I'm ready to terrorize."

 

Federal investigators found the incriminating messages after obtaining a warrant for Zamudio's phone last August, according to court records. Zamudio was a member of a large online group based in southern California called Defend East County, which had openly advocated in Facebook posts for attacking Black Lives Matter protesters and shared videos of people beating demonstrators and running people over with vehicles on Facebook, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last year. Facebook eventually removed the group in October, the newspaper reported.

 

Federal officials also charged Zamudio last August for possessing unregistered firearms and silencers. According to court records, Zamudio pleaded guilty in December.

 

Griggers is scheduled to be sentenced on July 6.

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