COVINGTON — Friends, family and the community gathered on the Covington Square Friday, Nov. 29 to honor the late Almond Turner at a candlelight vigil.
Turner, a former Covington assistant police chief, Springfield Baptist Church deacon and Newton County school board member died after being shot at a family gathering in Meridian, Miss.,i on Saturday, Nov. 23.
Turner's family was brought home by the Covington Police the same night.
Turner was brought back to Newton County from the Atlanta airport by a police escort Friday afternoon before the vigil.
Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton, Capt. Ken Malcom as well as the Conyers Police Department and Henry County Police Department and their officers were at the vigil escorting attendees and family safely to the Square.
The Newton County Community Band, of which Turner had been a member, played as people arrived.
Once the Turner family took their seats, Covington Police Chaplain Russell Graves began the service with a prayer before inviting Turner's brother Michael, son Dwahn, Capt. Malcom, Sheriff Brown, Newton County Board of Education Chairwoman Shakila Henderson-Baker, Springfield Executive Pastor Arthur Mitchell and others to speak on Turner's behalf.
"He wasn't only my brother, but he became my father," said Michael. "So this is hard for me, but I know my brother was a person of God; and I can't express how grateful I am to stand here and see all the love you had for my brother and his family."
"On behalf of my mother, we thank you," said Dwahn. "He is with God now. He is telling jokes and maybe telling a few lies, but I know that heaven is a better place because he is there. All of you are Almond Turner. All of you are here because of him."
"Finding true love is rare, but finding a true friend is even more rare," said Malcom. "This past Saturday night we lost a true friend to this community; a man with a servant's heart, whose goal was simply to make Newton County a better place...This past Saturday night we lost a brother. I lost someone who'd been right beside me through every significant event of my adult life...This past Saturday night, those who worked beside Chief Turner lost a mentor. A man who trained and coached me to do this job the right way. He taught me how to treat people... As we traveled back home from Meridian, I held Anita's hand not knowing what quite to say to her besides that I love her. And she told me, 'Ken, he helped raise you. You were just 19 when you started.' Anita's words reminded me that for many, this past Saturday night, we lost a father...This community lost a guardian. For 45 years this man stood in the gap between good and evil...This past Saturday night we all lost a great man of faith. Now there is a huge void in this community, this past Saturday night we lost a friend, a brother, mentor, guardian, a father, a servant of the people and a great man of faith. Newton County still needed Almond Turner. I know I do. I know his family did. So who will pick up Almond's torch? I believe if you look around you will see that we are all already holding one in our hand. Imagine what we could do if we all tried to be a little bit more like Almond Turner."
"I stand before you to tell you briefly just how impactful Almond was," said Henderson-Baker. "He served this community with true dignity. To our board, he has been our backbone for many years. He knew how to navigate through problems; he was calm, prepared and he always treated us like family."
"Chief, friend, brother, deputy are all names I called him," said Sheriff Brown. "More than 46 years ago two young men, Almond Turner and Ezell Brown, started a common interest: serving and protecting the citizens of Newton County, Georgia. We started our career walking our beat. This is where we started. In the '70s black officers worked certain areas and there were certain areas we couldn't work...And some might say 'Brown, why would you bring up history?' We need to know. We need to know Almond fought for everything that he achieved, it wasn't given to him...There comes a time that one must take a position that is neither safe, popular or political, but because doing the right thing. Almond Turner did the right thing...Who would've believed when we walked through those doors all those years ago he would be assistant chief and I would be the sheriff, no one would have ever imagined that. ...To this community and family, from the Sheriff's Office you have our deepest sympathy and we love you."
"Chief, as we would call him, Deacon Turner didn't just talk the talk, he walked the walk," said Pastor Mitchell. "Chief Deacon Almond Turner is being celebrated on the Square because chief believed in love that transcended race, ethnicity and age; he would crack a joke with you no matter if you were young or old. I believe that Chief Almond Turner is a disciple who has made disciples who makes disciples who makes disciples. All of you who have been blessed by his love, his personality and by all that he exhibits you are now charged to be a disciple who makes disciples who makes disciples. In this tragic situation we believe we didn't lose Chief because we know he is not lost. He was a servant of the true and living God. We came out to celebrate the life and legacy and the spirit that will live on, none other than our beloved brother Deacon Chief Almond Turner."
After the scheduled speakers, the ceremony was open for the public.
Former Mayor Sam Ramsey, Chairman Marcello Banes, Turner's first cousin and brother-in-law, all echoed the love and spirit of Almond Turner.
Turner's funeral service was held Monday, Dec. 2 at Springfield Baptist Church at 11 a.m. The service was streamed via www.youtube.com/watch?v=NN0-J-q7Bq0&feature=youtu.be