An employee of the Murray County Sheriff’s Office was arrested by the Dalton Police Department on Tuesday and fired by Sheriff Howard Ensley on Wednesday.
Gary Paul Penland, 30, of 3819 Miller Drive N.E. in Dalton, was charged with making false statements to police. According to an incident report, he tried to impersonate a police officer to "pick up" a juvenile girl while in his truck on Aug. 2.
Penland was released from the Whitfield County Jail on Tuesday on a $5,000 bond, said a spokeswoman. He did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday afternoon.
“We learned about the incident on Thursday or Friday (of last week), and he was suspended at that time,” said Sheriff Howard Ensley. Ensley did not know if the suspension included pay. “Since we received the information that he was arrested, he has been terminated,” he said.
Penland was not certified to be a patrol officer. He worked in the booking area of the Murray County Jail.
A complainant mentioned in the incident report followed Penland in his car after he saw the alleged attempt to pick up the girl in the Bailey Avenue-Morris Street area and gave a description of Penland’s truck to police. The girl told an investigating officer Penland told her “she was under arrest and that she needed to get into (his truck).” She said Penland showed her something that “looked like a badge” but she could tell it was not a badge.
The girl said Penland asked her, “Are you sure you don’t want to get into the truck?” She became scared and walked to the car following Penland, according to the incident report. The driver asked her what was going on. When she told him, he told her to get into his car and they followed Penland.
Whitfield 911 was called, and eventually the information given police resulted in Penland’s arrest.