Scheduled For Caledonia Court Jan. 29th–Dement Trial
By Ron Williams
At the Jan. 15th Columbus City Council meeting, the council went into executive session to deal with several personnel matters. One of those matters was whether to suspend Columbus Police Department veteran Officer Greg Harstad. Harstad was being accused of an incident with known troublemaker Robert Nelson Jr. who was being admitted to jail in the fall of 2012. In my column from last week, I incorrectly stated that “Harstad was reportedly involved in an incident at the jail where he fought with a man being admitted.” In the city council report on Page A10 from Packet # 1019, the correct information was reported which stated, “Harstad was transporting well-known troublemaker Robert Nelson Jr. to the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center when sources say that Nelson started verbally assaulting Harstad, calling him a “white devil” and “evil”. Nelson, who is suspected of being mentally unstable, has a very long history with local police and routinely calls 911 to his residence in the 2400 block of College. When approaching the jail, Nelson reportedly challenged Harstad to “take off your badge and we’ll see what you can do.” Upon arrival at LCADC, Harstad reportedly granted Nelson’s request and removed his badge and walked towards Nelson. Guards at the jail intervened before the incident escalated and several sources said no physical contact was made between the two. Harstad has been with the CPD since 2009 and had a decorated career in the U.S. Air Force.”
But it was with my statement that Harstad had reportedly fought with the man that Harstad found fault with and rightfully so. In an email to me, Harstad wanted to set the record straight. He stated that Nelson made threats to him and his family. “He challenged me to a fight saying, “Take that badge off and I’ll kick your a–,” said Harstad in the email. “All I did was take my badge off and turn to face him and said, “I’m right here!”
Harstad continued, “What you failed to mention is that the man had just threatened to kill my wife and granddaughter. He later said he would get a razor and slit my throat, then find my family and slit their throats. If you know anything about the man who said that (Nelson), then you know it is possible that he would carry through with his threat.” (Harstad assumed that someone told me what was said during executive session. That wasn’t the case. In fact, I complained to Packet Publisher Colin Krieger later about the fact that I, being the only media still hanging around till the end, was never called in after the executive session ended. COO David Armstrong is supposed to check and see if anyone is still available and the attorney is supposed to report any action taken during executive session. More on that later. RW)
In Harstad’s case, I’ve heard of accusations that Harstad was set-up in the incident with Nelson. Packet readers will recall that Harstad wanted to be a candidate for police chief during the process of the chief selection, but was denied an opportunity to be a candidate. Harstad disputed the process (as did I at the time. RW). Some believe the incident with Nelson was set up as revenge against Harstad. Possibly to make him look bad?
As mentioned about me being the only media left after the executive session, other media outlets, including WCBI Channel 4 (Steve Rogers covers the council meeting for them. RW), someone gave them information about what happened during executive session because the station reported the council action that night on their newscast, as well as the next morning. While being told the results of the council action afterwards by someone is perfectly fine, if the information was gathered during the executive session itself, then that is not for public consumption.
The trial of Seth Dement, the 18 year old that was on the front page of Packet # 1018 after being arrested when Caledonia Town Marshal Lance Luckey spotted his silver Toyota speeding through Caledonia, is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 29th at 6:30 p.m. in Caledonia Court before Judge Peggy Phillips.
After Luckey attempted to stop the vehicle on Lawrence Bridge Road, Dement was crossing the Lawrence Bridge and struck another vehicle in the process, coming to a stop in front of the first house once he crossed into Monroe County. Luckey detained Dement and his three passengers and searched the vehicle, finding several open containers, including beer and liquor bottles. Dement was placed under arrest and transported to the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center. His three passengers were released to their parents. All four of the youth are from the Hamilton, Ms. area.
While Packet Graphic Designer/ Reporter John Douglas was covering the arrest, several Monroe County residents in the area made comments to him like, “You need to leave those kids alone”, and “Why are you taking pictures? You don’t know that they’ve committed a crime!” Also. “Man, I had to put up my dog. He wants out REAL bad. Why don’t you just go on now?” In addition, a Monroe County deputy, after learning that Douglas was with The Packet, told him he couldn’t take pictures there (in Monroe county. RW)
Dement, a star athlete with The Hamilton Lions, was charged with DUI, Reckless Driving and Failure To Yield To Blue Lights. After Packet # 1018 was released, someone reported that a Hamilton area woman was going around buying up all of the Packets around Hamilton (supposedly to squash the story of Dement’s arrest. RW).
The family has reportedly hired a high-profile attorney from Oxford to represent Dement at the Caledonia hearing.
Ron Williams can be reached by email at