'Somebody that probably should have never been in jail':
Last month, inmate Albert Booze was charged with stabbing and killing Bibb County Deputy Christopher Knight.
Our #13Investigates Team requested Booze’s full case file from the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office. The records include every run-in deputies had with Booze on the streets and in the jail.
For years, deputies at the Bibb County jail knew Albert Dewitt Booze all too well. According to the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, Booze has been arrested a total of seven times since March 2016.
13WMAZ obtained Booze’s case file, which reports dozens of incidents when Booze allegedly threatened suicide, assaulted deputies, exposed himself, flooded his cell, and flushed medication down the toilet. He was in and out of the jail several times until the night he allegedly killed Deputy Christopher Knight.
Why was he in and out of jail? Sheriff David Davis says Booze was clearly mentally ill, but they had no place else to send him.
“Sadly, because of some of the breakdowns in the mental health system, Booze is somebody that probably should have never been in jail,” Davis said.
In a 2019 report, Booze's mother told deputies he had bipolar disorder and was likely not taking his medication.
His jail file lists at least six times that deputies put Booze on suicide watch.
Court records show that jail staff and his own attorneys asked for mental health evaluations.
According to court records, judges signed off on evaluations.
“But that whole middle time, they're just in jail. They are in the same place as murderers, armed robbers, and people who commit other offenses. That's only not ideal, it's somewhat counterproductive,” said Chief Judge Howard Simms.
Simms says he cannot talk about Booze's case. Because of federal privacy rules, we do not know what the evaluations found about Booze.
However, we do know a defense attorney must file a special plea of insanity if doctors decide that someone is not competent to stand trial or not responsible for their actions because of mental illness. According to Superior Court public records, there was never a special plea filed for Booze.
Meanwhile inside the jail, there's report after report on Booze's erratic behavior. One example was in 2019, when Booze was in the jail infirmary.
A report says he tried "several times" to go behind a counter to find a "any type of object he could use as a weapon." Deputies say he raised up his hands "ready to fight," but that ended when a deputy Tased him.
Just a month later, another struggle with deputies after Booze flooded his cell.
When the jail staff asked him to stop, the report says Booze tried to hit a supervisor with his fist. The reports say he also grabbed a jail supervisor's leg, and other deputies had to punch Booze in the face and gut to get him off.
The case file mentions at least four times that Booze flooded his cell. One report in July 2019 says a deputy opened Booze’s cell door and Booze “slid across the floor” because there was so much water. The report says Booze started running and knocked over equipment--damaging camera system, door monitor and keyboard. It took “several officers” to get him back in the cell.
Another report describes Booze flushing his medication down the toilet and laughing.
“Even in the jail, you know we can't make him take their medicine,” Davis said.
“The problem is you can't force-medicate people,” Judge Simms said.
“That sort of leads into the situations that we have and some of the problems,” Davis said.
Outside the jail, incident reports say Booze was just as erratic.
“There had been some occasions when some of the patrol deputies had encountered him also,” Davis said.
That includes one time in 2018 when a deputy drew his Taser because Booze "held a pocket knife in his hands” while hiding under a car in this Burger King parking lot.
Several other times, Booze ended up in custody after complaints that he was loitering around businesses or shoplifting.
Last November, he was arrested after hanging around the Arby's on Gray Highway and kicking in a glass door. He was still in jail five months later on those trespassing and criminal damage charges on the night he allegedly killed Deputy Knight.
Davis says Booze's history shows county jails have become Georgia's mental health hospitals.
“Where else are you going to send him? There are very few mental health facilities still left open,” Davis said.
“While jails and penitentiaries can do what they can do to help people with mental health issues while they're waiting for trial or after they get convicted, they are not purpose-built for that. We're trying to shoehorn that,” Simms said.
Davis says he'd like to see more mental health case workers on the street monitoring people and making sure they are taking their medication properly. In the case of Booze, an incident report said he was required to be reporting to River Edge Behavioral Health for treatment while he was out of jail in 2019, but deputies could not determine whether he was actually going.