Sally Q. Yates (File photo)
Two Spalding County firefighters, one of them a battalion chief, have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that they have been tipping off drug traffickers to police activity in and around Griffin, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia announced Monday.
Spalding Battalion Chief Dwayne Tyrone Coggins, 47, and firefighter Michael Owens, 37, were arraigned Monday after the grand jury indicted them last week.
The fire department said in a written statement that the two men have been suspended with pay after FBI agents took them into custody.
According to federal prosecutors, police officers gathered regularly at the Spalding County Fire Department before scheduled police activities that included serving arrest warrants.
In April and May, Coggins and Owens allegedly warned drug dealers about law enforcement activity in the area after apparently learning about an investigation from officers who gathered at the fire station or witnessing police gathering before serving warrants, prosecutors said.
“When called upon to assist the police, Coggins and Owens’ first instinct was to call the drug dealers to warn them,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Now, they face federal charges for protecting drug dealers.”
The indictment, which was unsealed Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman, lists multiple phone calls to individuals who are identified only by their initials, to warn at least one drug trafficker “to clean his house up because law enforcement was in the area.”
Attorneys representing the two firefighters could not be immediately identified.