ORIGINAL STORY: https://www.wrcbtv.com/story/42518191/dalton-billboard-asks-for-sexual-misconduct-information-on-varnell-police-officers
A billboard in Dalton is getting some attention online, with a message asking anyone who has been sexually harassed by the Varnell Police Department to reach out to attorney Ibrahim Awad and his firm.
One of Awad's clients was sexually harassed by a Varnell officer back in 2018 at a gas station. He hopes this billboard will encourage more women to come forward.
"I feel the #MeToo movement is coming to Northwest Georgia,” Awad said.
The billboard has been up for a few weeks and Awad says several women have called, sharing their stories of uncomfortable encounters with officers from the Varnell Police Department.
"Now that we are seeing that there are other women saying yes we've seen this. I am now trying to figure out how come all of these people saw this but the city of Varnell didn't see it,” Awad said.
Awad questions if the city or the police department took any form of action.
"If they knew about it and if they didn't do anything about it...why not?” Awad said.
Channel 3 reached out to both the police department and the city of Varnell.
Current Varnell Police Chief Kyle Moreno addressed the billboard and its claims in a statement:
“The Varnell Police Department has been made aware of a billboard sign located in Dalton. Currently, it is unclear what situation the billboard is in reference to. The police department nor the city has been made aware of any recent complaints or incidents within the last two years that would involve this matter. The law firm that is advertised on the billboard has not contacted the police department or the city. At this time, the police department and the city will be looking into this matter.”
Moreno also addressed the 2018 sexual harassment:
The Varnell Police Department has reviewed the video of the incident that occurred in 2018. That incident was promptly dealt with and that matter is closed as far as we know.
Awad says they are gathering more testimony before moving forward, which is why he says he purchased the billboard because he believes there is more information to collect.
"We feel that the more women who come out and speak up, the safer it's going to be for all women,” Awad said.
Patrick John Hayes is the former officer in the 2018 incident.
He pleaded guilty to sexual battery in January and was sentenced to 12 months of probation.