The Douglas County jail was placed on lockdown for about 45 minutes Friday during a protest by a known armed militia group.
The group was protesting the recent death investigation of Stephen Styles.
The sheriff’s office was made aware in advance of the planned protest. Sheriff Tim Pounds and Douglasville Police Chief Gary Sparks reached out to the group Thursday to let them know a peaceful protest “would be welcomed” but that violence “would not be tolerated,” according to the release from DCSO.
“The group was respectful and gave no indications that they were coming for that purpose,” the sheriff’s office said in the release.
The group first assembled at Arbor Place Mall before moving to the jail and then onto the area where Styles’ body was found off Mason Creek Road in Winston.
Chief Deputy Kenneth Conner said there were about 25 protesters. Capt. Elmer Horn said many of them were from Florida.
Group members “donned black clothing, ballistic vests, facial coverings, firearms and high capacity magazines,” the sheriff’s office said.
As the group marched in formation, down the sidewall toward the sheriff’s office, they were met by deputies, who spoke with them and informed them they were entering an established guard line and were not permitted to proceed any further with their weapons, DCSO said in the release.
Approximately eight members of the group disarmed themselves and went inside with Styles’ brother to meet with Pounds, Sparks and others about the death investigation, which was suicide based on all available evidence, DCSO said in the release,
After the meeting, the group posed for a picture and selfies before moving to the site where Styles’ body was found in Winston, DCSO said. The lockdown at the jail was lifted after the group left.
The sheriff’s office said it received “numerous calls about the armed militia group and concerned citizens were reassured that the assembly was peaceful.”
Styles’ body was found Feb. 21, 2021 in a wooded area on Mason Creek Road in Winston, according to the sheriff’s office. The area is known as one where “drug abusers frequent and illegal trash dumping occurs,” the sheriff’s office said.
Styles’ car was vandalized and abandoned and his body was found hanging from a tree about 250 yards from his vehicle, according to the sheriff’s office.
The DCSO Major Case Unit investigated and learned that Styles left his residence Feb. 12, 2021, after a disagreement with his grandmother, the sheriff’s office said. He never returned home and was not reported missing, according to DCSO.
The sheriff’s office said Styles was on parole for child molestation and wore an ankle monitor that tracked his whereabouts at all times.
A chair located next to Styles’ body contained a shoe impression, which matched the soles of the shoes he was wearing, according to the sheriff’s office. The ligature used for the suicide was brought to the scene by Styles from his residence, the sheriff’s office said.
An external examination of Styles’ body, including his clothes, showed no indication of foul play, the sheriff’s office said. There was no evidence of a struggle or altercation near his car or his body, the sheriff’s office said.
Styles’ body and crime scene photographs were sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Medical Examiner’s Office, which conducted an autopsy, the findings of which concluded “the cause of death was ligature hanging and the manner of death is suicide,” the sheriff’s office said.
District Attorney Dalia Racine was also briefed on the facts of the case and the sheriff’s office said “she felt comfortable that the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office had conducted a very thorough investigation and that all the facts indicated Mr. Stephen Styles had committed suicide.”