A candidate for the 2020 Bulloch County sheriff’s race filed an internal investigations complaint with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office after an altercation with an off-duty deputy during a recent Georgia Southern University football game.
Reynaldo Rodriguez, a former Bulloch County sheriff’s deputy currently working for the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, has not yet formally announced plans to run for sheriff. However, he has publicly acknowledged his intent to qualify for the race. The argument with off-duty Bulloch County sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Kingery was over comments about his intent to run, he said.
In a statement to Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown, Rodriguez said that during an encounter Sept. 26 at Paulson Stadium, Kingery spoke negatively about him and acted in a threatening manner. Then, during the verbal exchange, he accidentally knocked Kingery’s hat off his head while shielding himself from Kingery’s “saliva,” which he reportedly “spewed” during the verbal confrontation.
Kingery said Rodriguez’s actions were intentional. In a statement he gave to Brown, a copy of which he provided the Statesboro Herald, Kingery admitted having made previous negative statements to Rodriguez’s campaign manager. He said he approached Rodriguez the day of the Sept. 26 ballgame to “clear the air.”
Rodriguez filed a formal complaint with Brown Sept. 30, and Brown assigned the case to Investigator Marcus Nesmith.
In the IA report, Nesmith said Rodriguez stated Kingery approached him at the GS game, “extended his hand, then leaned in closely and stated that Rodriguez, who is running for sheriff of Bulloch County, would get no votes and … was wasting people’s time and money.”
Rodriguez said Kingery “was spewing saliva in his face, so he raised his hand, hit Kingery’s hat” and Kingery responded by calling him a vulgar name, according to the IA report. At that time, Rodriguez said Kingery was approaching him in a threatening manner, and he waved over some GS officers.
In Kingery’s statement, he said the entire conflict began over earlier comments he made to Rodriguez’s campaign manager.
He admitted to making comments about Rodriguez’s chances of winning, including stating he would “get less than 1 percent of the vote.” The next day, Rodriguez sent him a message saying he would respect Kingery more if he “said it to his face,” he said. Kingery showed that text message to a Statesboro Herald reporter.
Kingery said he could not reply to the message because Rodriguez had apparently blocked his number, but when he saw Rodriguez at the Sept. 26 ballgame, he wanted to make peace.
He shook Rodriguez’s hand, moved closer because of the noise and wanted to “clear the air,” he said. However, Kingery said Rodriguez interrupted him, stepped away abruptly and intentionally knocked his hat and sunglasses off.
At that point, GS police officers interceded.
Rodriguez said in his statement that Kingery “wanted a confrontation” and yelled that he “was a deputy … and you’re not kicking me out of anywhere.” He said Kingery “approached me to bully me, intimidate and harass me.”
Kingery denied any such intent.
Georgia Southern police Officer Danielle Felts stated in a report that she noticed Kingery “in Rodriguez's face, getting loud with him and using foul language.”
She said she separated the two and asked Kingery to leave “because he was causing a scene.” But then, Kingery “began getting in my face, getting loud, and said ‘I ain't going nowhere,’” she said. “He then began to tell me that ‘if you run me outta here, and not him, there will be problems.’”
In her reports, Felts related both Kingery’s and Rodriguez’s accounts of the dispute as being the same as what each of them stated in their own reports to Nesmith.
Felts said Kingery left willingly after calming down and said a witness supported his claim that Rodriguez knocked his hat off.
She said Rodriguez asked that her body cam video be sent to the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office but that she “advised him that I would mention to my supervisors, but I could not guarantee anything.”
GS officials did not fill a request by the Statesboro Herald for a copy of the video. Nesmith said GS officials told him there was no video.
In his IA report, Nesmith noted that neither Rodriguez nor Kingery had been criminally charged and that Rodriguez only requested that the incident be “documented and sent to the sheriff.”
After the IA investigation was completed, Nesmith provided a copy of the report to the Herald upon request. The report did not mention any consequences of disciplinary action against Kingery.
Bulloch County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Bill Black sad Wednesday there will be no disciplinary action made in the case.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.