HABERSHAM COUNTY, Ga. — The family of a man who was shot and killed by a Habersham County deputy last week, who was responding to a 911 call about a man with a gun, has written him a letter to tell him they sympathize with him.
"You did your job," the family writes to the deputy. "You did what you had to do to protect and serve when it appeared your life was in danger."
The incident occurred on Sept. 13 in the Mt. Airy area. Deputies from the Habersham County Sheriff's Office responded to a home on Cross Street after a caller had said "someone at the home had a gun."
The call was then disconnected, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said, and the responding deputies "were not immediately able to contact anyone when they arrived at the home."
The GBI said the door finally opened and deputies were "confronted by a man with a weapon and deputies shot the man."
That man was 39-year-old Anthony Tollison, or "Uncle TJ" to his nephew, who wrote the letter. And the gun turned out to be a replica firearm.
In the letter, the nephew told the deputy, "You were forced into a situation that no one should ever have to face."
"We cannot imagine the emotions and thoughts you are now facing from that night that will affect you for the rest of your life," he wrote. "For that we are sorry. In our eyes you did nothing wrong."
His letter continues: "You were forced to make a life or death decision. That is a split-second decision that you have been trained for to uphold your oath and you did your job. Our hearts are broken, but not because an officer of the law shot our loved one, but because our loved one didn't give you a choice."
The nephew said the behavior of his uncle in the incident was something "nobody ever expected" from him.
"He had his moments where he would be down and out of it, but we could always reel him back to the person we knew," he wrote. "He was happy and special. He was our rock when we needed him. He helped us when he couldn't really afford to help himself. He would always put others first before himself. He was a hero to a lot of people."
But, the nephew added, "As we mourn the loss of him, we have not forgotten about the burden that weighs heavy upon your shoulders."
"I don't think words can describe the feelings and emotions we are going through not only for the loss of our uncle but also for the emotions and feelings you yourself must be going through," he wrote.
His letter concludes that "no officer should ever have to go through this."
"No family should have to go through this, but it happens. For some reason it happens and, unfortunately, we are the ones that have to go through this," he wrote. "So, from our family to yours, we are deeply saddened by this event and our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. We hope that you can move past this tragic event and continue with your duties as an officer who we know protects and serves the community to the best of your abilities. Bravery is not absence of fear but action in the face of fear."