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Firefighter arrested on theft charges

Local and state law enforcement officers arrested a longtime ranking volunteer fire official on theft charges Monday, The McDuffie Mirror has learned.

Thomson Police Department Investigator Capt. J. Bridges identified him as 50-year-old David Hawkins, of the 800 block of Cobbham Road, Thomson. A warrant, charging him with one felony count of theft by taking, was served shortly before 6 p.m. on Monday at the Thomson Police Department.

Following his arrest by Capt. Bridges and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Tony Williamson, Mr. Hawkins was taken next door to the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center. He was released from jail after posting bond Tuesday morning.

Mr. Hawkins since has been relieved of his duties as a volunteer firefighter with Thomson Fire Rescue, according to Chief Rick Sewell. The fire chief has suspended Mr. Hawkins until the criminal case against him is resolved.

Chief Sewell officially suspended Mr. Hawkins on Tuesday morning. Mr. Hawkins has served as an assistant fire chief since being promoted to that position in 1991. He has served as a volunteer with the city fire department since 1977.

"He is an excellent firefighter and a good leader," Chief Sewell told The McDuffie Mirror during a telephone interview on Monday night. "Our volunteer firefighters seem to respect him a lot. He definitely knows how to command fire grounds."

Mr. Hawkins, a self-employed construction businessman who had been working part-time at the Sears Store in Thomson, is accused of having stolen several items from his part-time employers, Jimmy and Debbie Williams. Mr. Williams also is a longtime ranking volunteer firefighter with the city fire department.

Capt. Bridges said several of the items stolen from the Sears store were taken to Mr. Hawkins' home where they were seen during the investigation. Capt. Bridges said he, along with Police Chief Joseph D. Nelson and Special Agent Williamson, had viewed the items at Mr. Hawkins' residence.

Chief Nelson earlier had asked for assistance from the GBI Region 7 Office in Thomson when it was learned that the suspect was a volunteer fire official with the city fire department.

The items, valued at a little more than $5,000, had been taken over a period of time, the investigator said. The items since have been returned to Mr. and Mrs. Williams' business, he said.

Capt. Bridges said the stolen items were discovered after Mr. Williams reported a missing deposit bag, containing more than $700 in cash, from a safe inside the store. A report of that missing money was made to Sgt. Scott Whittle on Aug. 25. Another deposit bag, containing more than $1,200 in cash in the safe was not taken.

"This is still an ongoing investigation and there could be additional charges filed," Capt. Bridges said.

Web posted on Thursday, September 02, 2010

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