Angry family members and friends of Jonathan Sanford call for Sheriff Johnson’s resignation

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Jonathan Sanford

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Some 20-30 family and friends gathered at the roundabout Monday carrying signs and voicing their anger toward Sheriff Jeff Johnson following the death of Jonathan Sanford, 18, who died in the Dawson County Detention Center June 2, less than 24 hours after he was arrested for DUI and possession of marijuana.

Carrying signs that read “Justice for Jonathan?” “Was there a medical check?” “I want answers for my big brother” and “He was only 18. He could have lived.”

Sanford’s older sister, Cheyenne Sanford said, “We’re protesting my brother’s wrongful death. We do not want this to happen to any other family. I hold Sheriff Johnson responsible and every other officer who encountered him that night and did not do anything. This was the first time he had been arrested. It should have been a learning experience for him. Not a death sentence.”

She was particularly angry that Johnson had not personally contacted her family in the nearly two weeks since his arrest.

Sanford’s father Jerry Sanford told Fetch Your News he believes they placed his son in a holding cell and did not check on him even though Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Policy and Procedures requires inmates believed to be under the influence of drugs be “kept under close observation.”

Cheyenne Sanford said her brother’s death has devastated her family. “He leaves behind nephews and neices, little siblings that look up to him. He was their big brother and their hero.”

This is the second time in 14 months that an inmate died in the detention center. On April 10, 2019, 57-year-old Joseph Michael Bishop was found dead in his cell.

The incident is under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The body was sent to the GBI Crime Lab and cause of death has not been confirmed.

Fetch Your News tried to reach Sheriff Johnson for his comment but he did not return our call.

Jonathan Sanford Jonathan Sanford



  1. Keith Holloway June 15, 2020 at 8:05 pm

    Why is this one sided with no words from the sheriff or department?? Dam media is the problem

    • Bill Johnson June 15, 2020 at 9:04 pm

      Thank you for reading Fetch Your News Keith. Nothing one-sided about the article. The sheriff was offered an opportunity to comment and he chose not to.

      • Stephanie Jackson June 15, 2020 at 9:25 pm

        You do realize that an open investigation has limited details that can be shared by the department, right? What comments do you want from the Sheriff? They have posted several statements that could have been incorporated into this story.

        It would also be pertinent to list that the death of Joseph Michael Bishop was a suicide. The way you have worded it purposely makes it seem as if mysterious deaths are a trend in this jail, which is not the case. This death is currently a mystery while the cause of death is being determined.

        Also, you may want to re-edit. “Cheyenne Sanford said her brother’s death has devastated.” Devastated what? Her? Her family? The community?

        • Bill Johnson June 16, 2020 at 6:26 am

          Thank you for your comment, Stephanie. The sheriff was given an opportunity to comment and he chose not do do so. More importantly, he could have contacted the family to offer his condolences. Both Sanford and Bishop died in the sheriff’s jail. Certainly in Mr.Sanford’s case, the death was preventable if a health watch had been conducted. It was not. All reports are that by the time they found his body, rigor mortis had set in. As Cheyenne Sanford said, this was the 18-year-old’s first arrest. “It should have been a learning experience. Not a death sentence.”

          • BMH June 23, 2020 at 11:54 am

            You do realize a hanging takes a total of 20 minutes. From prep to death. If they checked on him every thirty minutes he still could have died.

  2. Craig Warren June 15, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    I hope this story is continued to be followed and the crime lab cause of death reported.
    It is a failure and total derelict of duty of the sheriff to have not contacted the family personally with condolences for the death understanding there is an ongoing investigation is not an excuse.

    • Bill Johnson June 15, 2020 at 9:06 pm

      Thank you for reading Fetch Your News, Craig. We will continue to follow the story. I agree with you most sheriff’s would have called the family to express their condolences.

  3. Stephanie Jackson June 15, 2020 at 10:07 pm

    Why was my comment deleted? Everything in it was factual.

    • Bill Johnson June 16, 2020 at 6:12 am

      Stephanie, I am not aware of any comment being deleted. Fetch Your News does not delete readers’ comments intentionally. Please try to repost it.

  4. Nancy Loner June 16, 2020 at 12:00 am

    Thank you Bill Johnson for covering this story. Jonathons family and friends are absolutely devastated. They just want answers as anyone would in this situation. So I ask, why Sheriff Johnson when a young man dies under your watch in your jail, you don’t even have the moral sense of humanity to offer condolences?
    When something this senseless happens in your house, you man up and make the call. It’s what a human being with morals do.
    There is no question that protocols were not followed with this young man when he was arrested and placed in that holding cell and he lost his life because of that.
    The Dawson County Sheriffs Department failed in their duties that night.

    • Bill Johnson June 16, 2020 at 6:09 am

      Thank you, Nancy for reading Fetch Your News. We will continue to follow this story Hopefully the GBI will issue a report that we can publish. My prayers are with Jonathan Sanford’s family and friends.

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