Arrest Report - Saturday - July 4, 2020

Here is the latest arrest report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office for Saturday, July 4, 2020:

Georgians Head West To Fight Wildland Fires

As the current wildfire season outlook indicates an increasing threat to forests and grasslands in Western states, a crew of firefighters from Georgia is providing support to local communities in the Rocky Mountains.

A 21-person crew traveled from Georgia by vehicle to the Pike and San Isabel National Forests (@PSICC_NF) near Walsenburg, Colorado, where it is prepared to respond to any fire outbreaks that are expected in the region. The crew includes seven trainees on a veterans group.

While this is the second fire season for the veterans crew, this is the first assignment to a Western wildfire. The Southern regional firefighter crew is normally stationed on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, conducting prescribed fire and other work to manage the forest and prevent wildfires in Georgia. They are enrolled in a 9-month training program, through the Southeast Conservation Corps , which provides them the experience and certification needed to become permanent firefighters for the U.S. Forest Service or other land management agencies.

Crew leader Peter Myers said, “It’s an honor and privilege to come out West and support these local communities, and our Forest Service colleagues”. Myers serves as the Assistant Fire Management Officer on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, where he manages operations for prescribed fires and wildfire response, such as what occurred during the Southeastern drought of autumn 2016.

Conditions in Colorado are extremely dry, with little moisture and lightning expected in the coming days and weeks. If a new wildfire ignites, the Georgia crew is ready to respond using all the tools used by wildland firefighters, such as hand tools used to create a fireline, drip torches, and chainsaws. The crew has one fire engine and several trucks to get them to remote areas and keep them supplied for more than three days.

Based on long-term weather forecasts and expected dry conditions, 2020 is projected to be a higher than average year for wildland fire. Aggressive initial attack, supported by airtankers and helicopters, will be used wherever possible to extinguish wildfires quickly and minimize the need to bring large numbers of firefighters together. More than 95 percent of wildfires are contained in the first few hours, meaning tens of thousands of fires are extinguished before becoming large wildfires.

Wildland fires are a force of nature that can be nearly as impossible to prevent, and as difficult to control, as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Fire Management involves both fire suppression and proactively using fire to achieve set goals. The Forest Service has been managing wildland fire on National Forests and Grasslands for more than 100 years, working closely with other federal, tribal, state, and local partners.

However, this is an unprecedented year, with the additional challenge of keeping firefighters and the public safe by slowing the spread of COVID-19. Health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic may affect how we fight fire, but it will not alter our commitment to protect the American people and our lands.

The wildland fire community’s greatest resource is our personnel, and ensuring our personnel are healthy is the first step in meeting the wildland fire mission. We have established wildland fire response plans,  interim standard operating procedures to ensure our firefighters are safe and fit for duty.  Consistent and continual monitoring of personnel will be a crucial step in preventing the movement of potentially infected individuals and the spread of COVID-19. A “Module as One” approach is being used for crews and modules to insulate as one unit and reduce exposure to the public and other crews.

The Georgia crew is putting safe practices to work, wearing masks when in public, wiping and cleaning fire trucks and equipment every day, monitoring each firefighter’s health condition and fitness, and carrying gallons of hand sanitizer as part of their personal protection equipment.

Each firefighter did a health assessment before traveling out West, to prevent bringing COVID-19 to the area where they will be working. Fortunately, the remote and rural location in Colorado has few reported cases of infection, but the crew will continue to exercise caution and practice social distancing guidelines. The crew also has a plan to quarantine in place if needed, just in case.

This is the first fire assignment for a Georgia crew since 2018, and includes 12 fulltime staff from the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, as well as two firefighters from the Savannah River Site, managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

The most important thing members of the public can do to help during the 2020 fire year is to do their part to prevent human-caused fires.  Fewer human-caused fires will not only help protect communities from wildfire, but will also preserve firefighting resources and help slow the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the need to move firefighters throughout the nation.

GHSA Updates Guidelines

The Georgia Highs School Association Sports Medicine Advisory Council has updated guidelines for competitive sports.  The association cautions that the guidelines could change. 

The GHSA has elected to implement: 1) inter-squad competitions (7-on-7, 3-on-3, … ) are allowed but competition between schools is illegal, 2) Groups of 50 are allowed to re-group if it can be done safely, 3) Cheerleading, Softball and Volleyball tryouts are allowed, 4) mask and face covering are recommended and 5) Each student should have their own personal water bottle (water bottles may be re-filled during workouts). No use of water fountains or “water cows” is allowed, starting Monday, July 6thwith the following stipulations:

1.    Recommend a mask or face covering.
2.    Groups may be re grouped into a group with up to the limit of 50 individuals.
3.    Water bottles may be refilled during workouts

FOOTBALL– NO helmets, shoulder pads, girdles, knee or thigh pads can be worn AT ANY TIME.  The face mask and face covering recommended guideline does not refer to helmets or helmet face masks, but to the use of cloth face covering/masks to help slow the spread of Covid-19.

Click here for a Revised Guidance which may be implemented Monday, July 6th.

Recommendations and restrictions are fluid and subject to change.  Safety must be our top priority.

LIHEAP Energy Assistance Available

Families hit hardest by the pandemic will receive aid through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.  900-million dollars in supplemental funding is being offered by Federal agencies to respond to home energy needs surrounding the national emergency created by the coronavirus.

Eligible families may apply for a benefit of $350 or $400 depending on the household income.  Eligible elderly program participants (60 years of age and older) can expect to receive the maximum benefit of $400.

The program is designed to assist low-income, elderly and disabled Georgians with energy costs through direct payments made directly to home energy suppliers.
Funds are administered through local Community Action Agencies.

Interested parties may contact North Georgia Community Action to determine how the program will accept applications.

You can reach the Chattooga County office at 706-857-0729

Fireworks Do's & Don'ts In Georgia

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On July 4, Georgia residents can shoot off fireworks until 11:59 PM unless a city or county has adopted a noise ordinance that address fireworks.

Fireworks are allowed statewide until 1 AM on New Year’s Day, and until 11:59 p.m. the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day, July 3, July 4, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve.

  • For roughly the past decade, Georgia has allowed the sale of sparklers, small fountains and other non-explosive fireworks. But, in 2016, a state law allowed bottle rockets, firecrackers, Roman candles and other fireworks are available for sale in the state.
  • A person must be 18 years old or or older in order to purchase fireworks in Georgia. No one under 16 may hold or use fireworks, according to the law. Individuals aged 16 to 17 years may be in possession of fireworks only when serving as an assistant to a licensed distributor or certain not-for-profit organizations, and they cannot at any time transport fireworks on interstate highways.
  • Fireworks may not be fired on roads or highways, or within 100 yards of a hospital, nursing home or prison.
  • They may not be used in a park, historic site, recreational area or other property owned by the city or county unless special permission has been granted.
  • Fireworks can’t legally be set off by anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • They can’t be fired indoors, or within 100 yards of a nuclear power facility, gas station, electric plant, water treatment plant, waste-water treatment plant, any public or private substation.

These fireworks are legal to purchase and use across Georgia, according to a state website:

  • Bottle Rockets
  • Sky Rockets
  • Roman Candles
  • Firecrackers
  • Sparklers
  • Smoke and Punk
  • Fountains
  • Missiles
  • Novelties
  • Crackle and Strobe
  • Parachutes
  • Wheels and Spinners
  • Sky Flyers
  • Display Shells
  • Aerial Items (Cakes)

Floyd's Bid For Open Heart Surgery Rejected Again

Hometown Headlines reports the state Department of Community Affairs has rejected Floyd Medical Center’s recent push to launch adult open heart surgery, the latest development in a a two-year battle that intensified recently with a marketing push “More Heart for Northwest Georgia.”

The campaign, featuring Black residents of the community, was heavily promoted on social media. A separate website included this statement:

  • Currently, there is only one provider of open heart surgery in our area. Our community deserves a choice.
  • While 15 percent of our population is African American, African American patients receive only about 4 percent of open heart surgeries in Floyd County.
  • Floyd is mission based and wants to be part of the solution.

Redmond Regional Medical Center, which offers such services to Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama, countered those claims.

Kurt Stuenkel, Floyd’s president and chief executive officer, had the following comment Wednesday morning:

“We are disappointed by the ruling made today by the Commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Community Health. We believe in the merits of our application for a CON.  Disparities of care exist and Floyd showed them. There remain avenues for appeal so we will consider our next steps in this process. In the meantime, we will continue to build upon the programs we already have in place to serve everyone in our community, particularly those who experience the disparities we identified.”

John Quinlivan, Redmond Regional’s chief executive officer, said:

“For over 30 years, we have worked to maintain an exceptional open-heart surgery program for our residents. We appreciate the thoughtful review by the Department of Community Health and believe this is the right decision for our community. We remain committed to offering a high-quality, accessible open-heart surgery program to all of Floyd County’s residents.”

The state, in a nearly 20-page long review, once again rejected the push.

Read more from Hometown Headlines

Arrest Report - Friday - July 3, 2020

Here is the latest arrest report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office for Friday, July 3, 2020:

Berry Reopens For Recreational Activities

Beginning July 1 and continuing daily throughout the month of July, the Berry College campus will be open to the general public from 7 AM to 7 PM for outdoor recreation activities only. Everyone arriving on campus will continue to be screened with temperature checks at the main entrance(s) between 7 AM and 3 PM. For further information, please refer to the FAQ at the Berry College home page.

COVID-19 Statement From Northwest Georgia Department Of Public Health

ROME, GA: Two weeks of increases in COVID-19 cases in the ten-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District point to a concerning sign that our community is moving in the wrong direction to contain the virus. Districtwide, confirmed cases have increased 21% in the past two weeks.

Statewide, the seven-day average number of cases has more than doubled in the past two weeks, from an average of 1,000 daily cases in mid-June to 2,000 daily cases at the end of June.

At this time, we have not seen a corresponding increase in hospitalizations or deaths, but these events can take a few weeks longer to occur after infections increase.

We do not want to overwhelm our emergency rooms or hospitals with COVID-19 patients. If this happens, they would not be able to care for people with other acute illnesses.

July 4th weekend is coming, but COVID-19 won’t take a break for the holiday. The virus is as infectious as ever. Remember, we depend on one another to keep our community safe and stop the spread to our friends and family. Avoid close contact with others, keep your distance, and wear a mask.

Although an increase in cases with re-opening as people come into more contact with one another is not unexpected, the marked increase in cases is signaling that we need to take steps to limit further spread that could set back our re-opening.

Most of the increase is among younger people. 22% of all current cases are among people aged 18-29. Because infections can spread from this predominantly younger group to older community members and people with underlying health conditions, we are closely tracking the healthcare system for increases in hospitalizations.

The previous average age of a COVID-19 patient one month ago was 55.  Now it’s 42. Our average age is decreasing because more younger people are getting infected.

The recent increase in COVID-19 cases is very concerning. Increasing cases and risk for acquiring COVID-19 in our community threatens the hard-earned progress we made during the stay-at-home order. This virus is very contagious, and we need to be vigilant – the risk from COVID-19 remains serious.

Everyone, especially young adults, needs to participate in COVID-19 prevention in all aspects of our lives, including social, recreational, workplace, and business settings to avoid a rebound in serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths.

No single exposure site has been driving the increase. Information from case investigations has pointed to multiple potential ways young people may be exposed. The largest proportion of cases continue to be reported among household contacts, but infections are likely acquired in many community settings  —  especially with large gatherings.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people getting tested for COVID-19. Testing to diagnose people with COVID-19 as soon as possible after symptoms develop is a very important step in reducing transmission.

In addition to increased transmission, increased testing may be turning up more cases that were previously unrecognized. Our district testing has doubled since early June, growing from 600 tests per week to 1,200 per week.

In addition, at the beginning of the epidemic, testing was only recommended for people who were symptomatic or essential workers. Now, testing is recommended for anyone. With this change in criteria, we may be identifying cases in people who otherwise would not have met the threshold for testing, such as younger people with mild symptoms.

To turn around these troubling trends, we all need to understand that the risk from COVID-19 remains high and take prevention measures seriously – for the long term. Anything that increases the number of people we have contact with or the proximity or duration of contact increases the risk for infection.

  • That means we need to continue to practice safe physical distancing —  avoid close contact (keep at least six feet of distance), crowded settings and group gatherings, and limit the duration of contact whenever possible.
  • If you’re together with friends, being outside is much better than being inside. And, even when outside, avoid close contact with non-household members.
  • Wear a face mask in public spaces, including outside when distancing is not possible.
  • People who are older and people who have underlying health conditions should continue to stay at home and limit contact with others as much as possible.
  • If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, stay home and away from others and get tested as soon as possible.

For more information about COVID-19, go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV

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Headed To Weiss Lake? Alabama Marine Patrol Urges Safety During 4th Weekend

Fourth of July is always a busy time on waterways as Alabamians of all ages gather for fireworks, parades and other water-related activities. This year is expected to be no different, especially since the holiday falls on a Saturday. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) Marine Patrol Division reminds everyone planning to spend time on the water to play it safe and make the best of the extended weekend. ALEA’s goal is to prevent any boating fatalities or injuries.

ALEA’s Secretary Hal Taylor said, “The last thing we want to do is take the fun out of the Fourth. We ask boaters of all ages to work with us to ensure everyone makes it home safely at the end of the day, particularly following fireworks displays planned on several of the state’s more popular waterways.”

Troopers encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with the following water safety tips prior to leaving for the lake, beach or other water destination:

• The designated driver practice works just as well on the water as it does on the road. If
boaters insist on having alcohol on board, make sure there is a designated driver.
• Be courteous and cautious.
• Follow boating rules. Know what to do in a head-to-head meeting and know the right-ofway rules and regulations.
• Make sure life jackets are accessible, in good condition, sized for the intended individual
and U.S. Coast Guard-approved. There must be one personal flotation device (PFD) on
board for each person on the boat that is sized and intended for that individual. Children
younger than the age of 8 must wear PFDs.
• Keep an eye on the sky: Monitor local weather throughout the day and adjust plans
accordingly.
• Give other boaters plenty of room. Don’t operate too closely to private docks or the
shoreline and give skiers and swimmers a wide berth.
• Never overload a vessel. Follow the capacity plate guidelines.
• Make it a habit to check the vessel’s safety equipment before using the vessel — every
time.

Another key safety tip concerns boating at night, which often is the case on the Fourth of July because of fireworks displays on or near the water. When boating at night, make sure the required navigation lights are on and in good working order. Operate at slower speeds and don’t
venture into unfamiliar territory.

GHC To Hold Virtual Commencement

Georgia Highlands College (GHC) will be holding a virtual commencement and virtual nursing pinning ceremony at the end of July to celebrate the class of 2020.

The pre-recorded 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony will be available for viewing on July 25th at 10AM. The virtual nursing pinning will be available for viewing on July 24th at 10AM.

To watch, please tune in to GHC Online TVFacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

GHC’s faculty chose Jonathan Hershey, Dean of Humanities, as the 2020 Mace Bearer and Professor of Geology Billy Morris as the recipient of the Wesley C. Walraven Faculty Award.

Student Government Association President Tristen Tolbert will speak on behalf of the student body.

All University System of Georgia institutions switched to remote delivery for courses in March and continued this way for the remainder of the spring and summer semesters to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. For these same reasons, GHC decided to hold commencement virtually in July.

City Of LaFayette Offering Fireworks Show Tonight

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There will be a fireworks show in LaFayette tonight, but the usual “Freedom Festival” vendors and activities were cancelled this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Municipal Park on South Main will open for parking at 9 p.m. Friday… and fireworks start at 10 PM. Guests in the park are asked to adhere to social distancing and stay 6 feet apart.

The Park Center Building will be closed and there will be no restrooms available on-site.

Arrest Report - Thursday July 2, 2020

Here is the latest arrest report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office for Thursday July 2, 2020:

Forgery Suspect Found With Drugs

Summerville Police arrested a twenty-two-year-old Summerville man on Monday morning who was suspected of forging several checks.  In a subsequent search of the man’s vehicle, police found drug paraphernalia and suspected methamphetamine.

Officers spotted James Albert Walker of a Crowe Street, Summerville address at the car-wash on Highland Avenue.  Police knew that Walker was wanted for forging checks.  When they spoke with Walker, police say that he admitted to forging the checks in question.

Officers did a probable cause search on Walker’s vehicle, saying they were looking for evidence of more check forgeries.  Police found a glass pipe and a baggie of suspected methamphetamine inside the vehicle.

Walker was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug related objects and booked into the Chattooga County Jail.

The forgery case remains under investigation, according to Summerville Police.

Two Cherokee County, AL Football Players Diagnosed With COVID-19

In a statement issued by Head Coach Jacob Kelly on Tuesday, prior to workouts on Wednesday, June 24, the team had two players who did not pass the required pre-screening process and they were sent home.

Coach Kelly stated that they received word that both of those players have tested positive for COVID-19. Kelly went onto say that the players’ safety is the number one priority.

The players and parents of the potentially exposed group have been notified individually.

There will be no athletic plans for the current week and the facilities will be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly during this time, with the intention to start back on Monday July 6th.

Kemp Signs Senior Care Home Reform Measure

Wednesday, Governor Brian P. Kemp signed House Bill (HB) 987, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R – Marietta) and Sen. Brian Strickland (R – McDonough) into law. Through collaboration with advocacy groups, industry representatives, and legislators, HB 987 provides greater protections for assisted living facility and personal care home residents, strengthens staffing requirements, and increases maximum fines for violations.

“I applaud Rep. Sharon Cooper, Sen. Brian Strickland, and everyone who worked with them to craft this legislation. Their tireless leadership in getting this bill across the finish line will improve the lives of countless people in our great state and bring tremendous comfort to their loved ones,” said Governor Kemp. “One of the key battlegrounds in the fight against COVID-19 continues to be in our nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and personal care homes, and I am proud to say that HB 987 strengthens our collective efforts to protect elderly Georgians in these unprecedented times.”

“I was proud to sponsor HB 987 to protect the most vulnerable, institute common-sense reforms, and ensure those working in these facilities receive the training that they need to care for elderly Georgians. I truly appreciate the support and dedication of my fellow legislators, and Governor Kemp for signing this important measure into law,” said Rep. Sharon Cooper (R – Marietta).

“In the State Senate, I was honored to sponsor HB 987, which dramatically strengthens protections for Georgia’s elderly and medically fragile in senior care homes, and I was proud to see it signed into law today, ” said Sen. Brian Strickland (R – McDonough). “Moving forward, we will be better equipped to ensure the health and well-being of these residents across our state.”

Walker County Woman Wanted In Connection With Murder In Acworth

A person of interest in a fatal shooting outside an Acworth motel Friday night, June 26, has been found, authorities said, while a second person is still being sought.

According to Cherokee Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker:

Investigators now believe the shooting outside the Hamilton Inn on Wade Green Road that killed 41-year-old JonDavid Russell Johnson was drug-related after about 9 ounces of methamphetamine was found inside Johnson’s room at the inn.

The investigation led detectives to seek to speak with two women they described as “persons of interest” in the case – 30-year-old Krystal Dianna Campbell, of Gordon County and 33-year-old Shene Lucretia Kirk, 33 of LaFayette.

Both women had active arrest warrants in other jurisdictions. Kirk has since been arrested on a parole violation warrant in Gordon County, while Campbell is still being sought. Anyone knowing Campbell’s whereabouts is asked to call investigators at 770-928-0239 or Cherokee 911.

The incident occurred at about 11:15 p.m. Friday, June 26, when deputies responded to a call for help regarding a person shot. The victim was Johnson, a 41-year-old man who had walked into the Squares convenience store at 6080 Ga. Highway 92 in Acworth. Johnson had suffered one gunshot wound to his torso and collapsed when he entered the store. He was transported to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, where he later died from the gunshot injury.

Detectives determined that Johnson was shot on the sidewalk outside the inn, which is directly across the street from the convenience store where he collapsed.

Northwest Georgia News

Georgia DOT Restricts Lane Closures For Fourth Of July Holiday

To alleviate Fourth of July weekend traffic congestion, the Georgia Department of Transportation (Georgia DOT) is suspending construction-related lane closures on interstate highways and limiting lane closures on state routes that directly serve major tourist and recreation centers. The closures will be from noon Thursday, July 2 through 10 pm Sunday, July 5.
“As people head to holiday festivities or vacation destinations on this long weekend, we expect heavier than normal traffic,” said Georgia DOT State Construction Engineer John Hancock. “By restricting lane closures, we hope drivers will encounter fewer delays and less stress.”

Safety is always a primary concern. The department reminds motorists that crews may still work in close proximity to highways; and safety concerns may require some long-term lane closures to remain in place. Also, incident management or emergency maintenance-related lane closures could become necessary at any time on any route. Whenever you approach a work zone: slow down; allow extra distance between vehicles; read signs; obey road crew flaggers; and expect the unexpected. Work zone safety is in your hands.

Although Georgia welcome centers are not currently open, rest area and welcome center restrooms are open and regularly deep cleaned. However, from time to time a rest area facility may be closed temporarily for service. When stopping in public spaces, be cognizant of social distancing and public health guidelines, as well as act courteously to fellow travelers.

Georgia DOT urges drivers to Drive Alert Arrive Alive – to always buckle up, stay off the phone and focus on driving.

In the event of a crash or breakdown, GDOT advises motorists to never get out of the car on a freeway, unless your life is in imminent danger. If possible, pull off the road, turn on your hazard lights and stay seat-belted in the vehicle with the doors locked.

For HERO assistance in metro Atlanta or CHAMP service on highways in other regions of Georgia call 511, a free phone service sponsored by State Farm that provides real-time statewide information on Georgia’s interstates and state routes, such as traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures, and delays due to inclement weather. Once callers are connected to 511, pressing 9 will transfer them to an operator to request assistance or report incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When placing these calls, it is important to provide current location, nearest exit number and the interstate the motorist is traveling. In addition, provide the make and model of the vehicle. More information is available at www.511ga.org.

Sixty-Two Confirmed COVID-19 Cases In Chattooga County

The latest numbers from the Georgia Department of Public Health show that Chattooga County now has sixty-two confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday.
Logan Boss with the Northwest Georgia Department of Public Health told WZQZ News on Wednesday afternoon that one case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at J-Bar Corporation in Trion.  Boss said that the Northwest Georgia Department of Public Health’s Epidemiological Response (EPI) Team will be in contact with the employer. The EPI Team has been working multiple cases as the numbers continue to grow across the region.

The Department of Public Health’s EPI Team identifies, monitors, and investigates disease outbreaks, injuries, or other conditions of public health importance.

Statewide the number of COVID-19 cases now number over 84,000.

 

Stolen Vehicle Reported On Starling Mill Road

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A vehicle was reported stolen on Starling Mill Road in Lyerly over the weekend.

According to a report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office, Julia Eirick told a responding deputy that she and her husband had left their residence around noon on Sunday and when they returned around 2:30, they found that a black, Ford Mustang had been stolen.

The complainant said that she didn’t have a title or insurance on the vehicle, because all she had was a bill of sale.  She also didn’t have a VIN number for the vehicle.   The keys had been left inside the vehicle.

No other information was available on the vehicle.

Deputies told the complainant to try to obtain more information so that the vehicle could be entered in the statewide database as being stolen.