A Blount County deputy involved in a freak accident that killed an electrical lineman in March will not be charged.
The Grand Jury returned a no-bill on the case of Andrew Schwam, who was working on a cable line in Hayden when he was killed.
The incident happened on March 18. A deputy traveling to work ran over a line running across the road. Somehow, the Dodge Durango he was driving picked up the line, which hit Schwam. Schwam, who was standing on the ground at the time, was seriously injured and slammed to the ground. He was transported to the hospital, where he was put on life support but eventually died from those injuries.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) was called in to investigate. Findings and testimony from three witnesses were presented to the Grand Jury.
"I was thankful that no charges would be brought on my deputy because he didn't do anything wrong," Blount County Sheriff Mark Moon told 1819 News.
Moon said no signs or cones were warning that work was being done ahead, and he had no way of knowing a cable was running across the road.
Schwam's sister, Savannah Stonebrook, took to social media after her brother's death, pleading for justice. She blamed the deputy involved, claiming the deputy was speeding and caused her brother's death. She also claimed the sheriff's office did not offer condolences to the family.
"My brother deserves justice," she said in the video.
Moon said several news articles covered the story with incorrect information, and one even released the deputy's name. He said the deputy was already having a hard time dealing with what he saw that day.
"He took a lot of backlash, especially when his name came out there," Moon said. "Man, the fake news article jumped on him and spread his name everywhere, and he had to turn off his Facebook for a while because people were saying just hateful, God-awful things.
"People even messaged the sheriff's office Facebook page wanting to know when we were going to charge the 'murdering deputy for killing the lineman in Hayden.' People just don't have all the information and they don't care."
Moon was at the National Sheriff's Institute Leadership seminar at the time of the incident. After the social media video went viral and caused public outrage, Moon asked people to be patient and not jump to conclusions.
"I have the video and will make a statement and release the video as soon as the Investigation is complete," Moon wrote in a Facebook post. "Please don't make assumptions and rush to judgment without knowing the facts. Please pray for the family of the man who lost his life and for the deputy that was involved."
Now that the investigation is over, Moon said the family of Schwam has asked for the video not to be released. However, he said the video proves Schwam was not thrown 37 feet into the air, as previously reported.
Moon said he testified to the Grand Jury Friday morning.
The report from the Grand Jury stated, "The Traffic-Homicide Investigation was presented and this body made the determination that no living being committed any criminal offense that caused the death of Andrew Schwarm."
The grand jury recommended the Blount County Sheriff's Office establish a protocol for notifying the sheriff of any death or injury incident involving a deputy or employee. Moon was not notified of the incident until two days after it happened. He said his chief deputy was under the impression the injuries sustained were minor. However, when he found out Schwam was on life-support, the chief deputy began to do his own investigation and contacted ALEA.
Moon said his office is revising its policy to ensure proper and efficient notification processes are in place.
As for what caused the incident, Moon said when investigators examined the Durango, the undercarriage was smooth except for one bolt that came off the muffler in the rear of the vehicle.
"That's how it is made from the manufacturer," he said. "Everything was round or smooth except for that one bolt."
Meanwhile, the deputy, a U.S. Army veteran, continues his work in Blount County. Moon said he was very frustrated that the deputy was targeted online.
"He's one of my best," Moon added. "He's really good at his job. He still tends to deal with some issues but is very professional, and we are thankful to have him. It's extremely unfair how he was portrayed.
"I understand people want answers, and they want them now, but we have to understand that investigations have to be done, and we can't put out details until those investigations are completed. So, I would beg and urge the public not to jump to conclusions when you don't have all the facts.
"The first facts that were put out weren't even facts, they were conjecture. So, just wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to any conclusions and start accusing somebody of some of the most atrocious things that we have in life, which is murder. I mean, that deputy didn't deserve the treatment that he got from the public and from social media."
Schwam, the father of two, was also an organ donor. His liver was successfully donated to a family friend.
A GoFundMe account set up by Schwam's sister to support his family raised nearly $45,000.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.