In the early morning of May 19, Dawson County Sheriff’s Office received a call from their counterparts in Lumpkin County about a single car wreck with no injuries that had occurred on Nimblewill Gap Road.
The Lumpkin County authorities had not been able to locate the wreck and made a request for the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office to continue the search on their side of the county line.
Dawson County Sheriff Deputy Jacob Ward was dispatched to the call, but Sgt. Larry Busher responded, volunteering to go to the scene since Ward was assigned to the eastern part of the county rather than the northern part, where the wreck occurred.
“Dawson,” said Busher, addressing his dispatcher, “He’s going to be an Eastside unit. Once I break free from (his current call), I’ll make my way up there.”
Due to the lack of cell phone reception in the area, neither Lumpkin County nor Dawson County were able to contact the subject in the car, Christopher Green, but had instead been talking with a local ham radio operator named Raul, who had been contacted by another ham radio operator, Bill Skinner about the incident. Skinner had been camping in the area and come across the wreck.
The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office was able to locate Skinner’s cell phone using their i911 app, but Skinner had left the scene of the accident to try to find cell reception, so the location was not accurate.
After spending nearly 90 minutes searching Nimblewill Gap Road and coming across a road closure that forced him to reroute, Busher headed down from the mountain to refuel before continuing his search.
After another hour of searching had passed, Busher became suspicious of the call. In a profanity-laden phone call that has since been released on the internet, he voiced his concern to his dispatcher and requested fellow officer Randy Harkness, who was very familiar with the area, be sent to help him navigate the notoriously difficult terrain.
“I’m not (expletive) going anywhere; Randy Harkness is coming with me,” said Busher.
“Oh my God,” replied the dispatcher. “So you’re not even close?”
“I’m at Nimblewill Church Road and Nimblewill Gap,” he responded, clarifying that he was, in fact, on scene and actively searching. “I’m sorry, but something about this isn’t right. I mean if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but if I’m right, it just might save my (expletive) life.”
“It’s great until they name a school after me,” Busher added, referring to his fear that he would be shot and killed in an ambush.
“While I believe that we all may agree that the dialogue was not appropriate, attention cannot be diverted away from the fact that the sergeant had and continued to search for the accident victim,” said Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson.
Harkness, who was not on duty at the time, arrived approximately 45 minutes later.
With Harkness guiding, Busher was able to locate and get within a mile of the scene of the accident, which was inside Gilmer County.
By that time, Busher had been searching for more than four hours.
Due to road conditions, Busher’s patrol car was unable to safely continue, and Busher and Harkness rode with Skinner.
Skinner took Busher into his four-wheel-drive vehicle and the two continued on to the scene of the accident.
Citing the same road conditions, Gilmer County Sheriff’s deputies were unable to reach the scene of the accident from their side, so Skinner and Busher brought Green back to Busher’s patrol car. Busher and Harkness then took Green down the mountain and transferred him to another patrol car, which then took him to the Gilmer County line. Once there, Green was handed over to Gilmer County deputies to file his accident report.
“I appreciate Dawson [County] News working to get the complete story rather than trying to sensationalize a report by focusing on certain elements while completely ignoring others,” said Johnson.