COVINGTON — The Covington and Newton County community was saddened Sunday to learn of the death of Almond Turner, a member of the Newton County Board of Education and former captain and assistant chief with the Covington Police Department.
Few details were available Sunday morning, other than Turner had gone to Meridian to visit family members and was killed there Saturday. Officials with the Police Department went to Meridian to bring home family members.
“The Covington Police Department is just devastated,” said Police Chief Stacey Cotton. “We have lost our beloved assistant chief of 20 years and a 45-year employee. It’s just a tragedy. We are asking for everyone to pray for the family.”
Turner retired from the Police Department in 2016 after 45 years of service. At that time, he was the city of Covington’s longest tenured employee. In 2016, the department also honored Turner by naming him “Officer of the Year,” and presenting him the “Police Who Care ‘Making A Difference’ Award.”
Turner was serving his sixth term representing District 4 on the Newton County Board of education.
“Our community has suffered a tremendous loss of someone who had provided service in our community for over 45 years,” said Newton County Board of Commissioners Marcello Banes. “He served on the police force, making the rank all the way up to assistant chief and ensuring over the last 45 years that our community has been safe. Not only that, but the time he has spent on the school board to make sure kids have a quality education. He has been a great leader in our community, and our hearts go out to the Turner family.”
Banes said Turner provided security at Springfield Baptist Church and was always welcoming to parishioners.
"The church has 15,000 members but his face stands out," said Banes. "He welcomes you when you walk through the door and he makes you feel safe and that is really going to be missed. Not only was he a gentle giant, but he was a pillar in our community.”
“We are stunned, devastated, and heartbroken,” said Samantha Fuhrey, superintendent of the Newton County School System. “Mr. Turner was a life-long supporter of our community and its school system. He always wanted and fought for what was best for our students and employees and we looked forward to him continuing to serve on our school board into the foreseeable future. But more importantly, on a personal note, Mr. Turner was my friend and mentor—someone who helped guide me as I began the journey as superintendent of this school system. I will never forget his advice, his kind words of encouragement, and most of all his friendship. There will never be another Almond Turner. He was truly one of a kind.”
Newton County Board of Education Chair Shakila Henderson-Baker said, “Mr. Turner was a leader in our community and our school system. This is hard. Almond was and is a man who spent his life serving and protecting others, whether it was serving on the police force or serving the community as an advocate for public education. I am shocked to hear of this tragedy. He will absolutely be missed.”
Mrs. Henderson-Baker added, “Almond is a hero to all of us. He was the backbone of our school board. He encouraged us. He fought for the best interest of our children. And he was our friend. I am absolutely devastated at this loss. I grew up seven doors down from Almond Turner. He watched me grow up from a little girl. My dad died two days before my first election but Almond came to me and said, ‘I got you.’ And now my ‘I got you’ is gone. I am devastated. We all are.”
Newly-elected Covington City Council member Fleeta Smith Baggett also expressed her sorrow at the loss of Turner.
"On the night of 11/23 the city of Covington lost a hero and true gentleman. For as long as I can remember Chief Turner has been a part of my life and this community. My heart breaks for his family, especially his wife Mrs. Anita. The lives Chief Turner touched number into the thousands. Our community and hearts will feel this senseless loss for years to come. 'When you see scary things look for the helpers.' Capt. Turner was always our helper now it’s time, to be there, to help his family."
A lifelong Covington resident, Turner attend R.L. Cousins school and graduated in 1968. There he saw first-hand the start of integration in the Newton County public school system.
After high school, Turner’s aptitude for the trumpet and love of music took him to Fort Valley State University, where he majored in music with dreams of becoming a band director.
While working a side job as a security officer, Turner noticed a hiring ad for the Atlanta Police Department and decided to apply. His wife encouraged him to pursue an opening at the city of Covington Police Department, too, because that is where they both grew up. Turner applied for both jobs and the day before he reported to take a physical for the Atlanta Police Department, Covington Police Chief Doug Digby called him for an interview. Turner was hired as a Covington police officer on June 13, 1972.
“I had plans to become a band director, but God had other plans,” Turner said in 2016. “He had plans for me to serve and protect, and I am glad I was obedient to Him and followed the plans He had.”
Turner was promoted to lieutenant in the Investigative Division in 1978 and then to captain in 1984. He would be named assistant police chief in 1997 and held that title through his retirement.