Fort Deposit chief shocked by arrests

Published 1:03 pm Friday, July 17, 2009

In the wake of losing two of his police officers, Fort Deposit Police Chief Ben Turner seemed shocked by everything that has taken place over the last few days.

“I was blindsided by this,” Turner said Friday afternoon in a phone interview. “I didn’t see this coming.”

The two officers, Jessie Fuller, 22, and Tyson Bennett, 33, have been charged with first-degree robbery after they allegedly stopped a male subject on I-65 and robbed him of an undisclosed amount of money Tuesday night, June 30, while in uniform.

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Turner said that Fuller began working with the police department in either December 2008 or Jan. 2009.

“Nothing like this has come up with Jessie before,” Turner said. “Since he and (Tyson) Bennett have been out on patrol, the crime rate in Fort Deposit has gone down. I’d get complaints about a traffic stop with people saying they shouldn’t have been stopped just because their tail light was out or something like that, but I didn’t know he was stopping cars just to steal.”

As for Bennett, who has had a checkered past with both the Greenville Police Department and the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, Turner said that he was “not aware” of any past problems with the officer.

“I did a background check on Tyson, and didn’t find anything,” Turner said. “I went back and checked again and found some things—but he got recommendations from different people in high places, so I didn’t know about the things I’ve been hearing lately.”

Turner said that when he hired Bennett earlier this year, Bennett still had his police officer certification so he hired him.

Even though the two officers appeared in the Butler County Courthouse Friday afternoon, it will still be a Lowndes County case, according to Lowndes County Sheriff Charlie “Chip” Williams.

“It (the hearing) was only held there because Judge Terry Bozeman was out of town,” Williams explained.

Williams, who was called by Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden after the victim first contacted him, initally thought that Lowndes County deputies were involved in the incident.

“I didn’t want to take the chance that people would say something was swept under the rug, so I called the ABI (Alabama Bureau of Investigation),” Williams explained. “I didn’t want my officers put in the situation of investigating a friend or anything like that.”

“When someone in law enforcement is breaking the law, they need to be out of law enforcement,” Williams said. “What’s so bad is that this incident makes good officers look bad, and it’s not so. It’s limited to certain officers, and these two chose the wrong side.”

According to Turner, Fort Deposit now has one full-time and two part-time police officers in addition to himself.