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The waitress saw the driver lay his head on the steering wheel. She took an order. When she looked up, the driver was gone.
A police officer pulled up, glanced inside the car and saw a .40-caliber Glock on the driver's seat. He opened the unlocked door. The car smelled like alcohol. The officer found a badge under the driver's seat. It was printed with the words "Fulton County Sheriff's Department" and "D. Johnson."
A half-hour later, three boys knocked on the door of the Waffle House bathroom and roused its occupant. Deputy Deon Johnson opened the door and made his way toward the parking lot. "He swayed when he walked," the Henry County officer wrote in an incident report, "and his clothes were in disarray."
The officer asked Johnson to take a breath test. Johnson refused. The officer didn't charge Johnson with a crime. He instead handed him over to a Fulton County internal affairs investigator. "I was going to call for a ride," Johnson would later say during an interrogation, "when I was informed that my department was notified and someone was already in route."
When he arrived in Atlanta at about 7 a.m., Deputy Johnson sat down for an interview with internal affairs Sgt. Leighton Graham. Graham noted that Johnson appeared confused. Johnson mentioned that a Henry County cop -- or maybe it was a fellow Fulton Sheriff's deputy -- had been looking for the driver of a Sable.
"OK, prior to going to the Waffle House, had you been drinking?" Graham asked.
"Exactly, yes I had," Johnson answered.
"Approximately how much had you drank?"
"Probably two glasses ... ah ... little bit of ah ... probably a glass of ah ... Martel and ah ... probably a beer or two."
"A glass of Martel and probably a beer or two."
"OK. At this time, are you intoxicated?"
"No," Johnson said. "Not to my knowledge."
Graham then asked Johnson to take a breath test. Johnson refused. He told Graham the Sable belonged to his girlfriend and that she had been driving. Graham told him the Waffle House staff and customers had seen him behind the wheel. No one saw a woman, anywhere.
"To my knowledge, she was right there," Johnson said. "But, you know, if that's what [they] said, I can only go on what ... If they're saying ... I can only go on ... if that's what they're saying and I'm saying what I'm saying ... we can only be one alike."
Graham asked Johnson for a detailed written statement. Johnson said he couldn't give one. He said he didn't feel well.
Johnson had been written up in the past, for "excessive use of intoxicants while off duty" and "conduct unbecoming an officer" after a fight at a sports bar. He also had received a traffic citation on his way to work for running into a homeless man. The man went to Grady Hospital with critical internal injuries.
But Jones had nothing to worry about with the Waffle House incident. He walked away with a written warning.
Fired, almost for good
At the same time, two nurses took a break from their shift at the jail clinic. They walked out of the exam room and met two deputies working clinic security. All four watched as Solomon shoved Calloway out of the cafeteria area and into view.
The beating started abruptly.
Solomon hit Calloway over and over, the nurses told internal affairs. Calloway didn't put up a fight, both deputies noted. One of them ran into the room where the beating continued. He didn't run to stop Solomon, according to his statement to internal affairs. He ran to help Solomon "restrain" the inmate. At the deputy's urging, Solomon put the inmate in handcuffs.
The deputy walked back to where the nurses stood. They told him Solomon had kicked the inmate in the face.
The two nurses returned to the exam room, and Solomon walked in a moment later, inmate Calloway in tow. The nurses offered to treat a small cut on Solomon's hand, but he refused. When Solomon and Calloway left, "he began to hit the inmate once again," according to one nurse. Solomon then took the inmate to the jail's main clinic.
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