Grovetown Officer on Leave After His Weapon is Stolen While Hanging at Augusta Hotel

Grovetown Officer Justin Durden, shown here in a MySpace photo from his youth.

A Grovetown police officer was placed on administrative leave after his police duty weapon was stolen early Tuesday while he was hanging at an Augusta hotel with a cross-dresser, authorities said.

Chief Scott Wheatley confirmed to The Jail Report that an officer has been placed on leave while his agency investigates. He would not name the officer.

But an incident report by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office identifies the officer as 26-year-old Justin Durden of Grovetown. Reached at home Wednesday, Officer Durden declined to comment and hung up.

Durden called RCSO officials early Tuesday to report the theft of his police duty weapon from his car. He told deputies that it happened while he was hanging at the Motel 6 at 201 Boy Scout Road with two men whose names he didn’t know, including a man who was dressed as a woman, the report says.

The report says someone smashed his car window with a piece of concrete. Durden later discovered the disappearance of the weapon, described as a Glock 22 Police Duty weapon valued at $450. A Serpa paddle holster for the handgun was also missing, valued at $40.

The report indicates that Durden was not truthful in his first account of what happened.  Here is the narrative of the entire incident report:

On 7/30/19 at 7:23 a.m., I, Deputy D. Whelchel, responded to the parking lot of Motel 6 at 201 Boy Scout Road where I met with Justin Durden(VICTIM) in reference to a theft of a firearm from a vehicle.  I observed Durden’s vehicle, the listed 2007 Mercedes Benz SLK350, parked in front of room 129 with a shattered window on the driver’s door.  Durden advised he already checked inside the vehicle and the only items discovered to be missing was the listed firearm and holster which were together underneath the driver seat.  Durden informed me that he is an active police officer for the city of Grovetown and the firearm taken was a police duty weapon issued to him by the Grovetown Department of Public Safety(VICTIM).  Durden notified his supervisor by phone and confirmed the serial number for the firearm.

   Durden advised he arrived at this location the previous evening at around midnight to hang out with some friends in room 225 and then stay the night.  Durden advised he fell asleep for a bit and did not at any time return to the vehicle until he later awoke and came down to the vehicle at around 7 a.m. when he discovered the broken window and the theft and called RCSO.  I processed the door areas of the vehicle for fingerprints and discovered no usable samples.  A chunk of concrete was found in the driver floor area which appeared to have been used to break the window.

   I met with Motel 6 manager Zulema Arias to review video footage.  Durden confirmed the video footage needed would be between midnight and about 7 a.m. I allowed Durden to accompany me as I reviewed the video footage.  The video footage revealed that Durden arrived in his vehicle at approximately 11:30 p.m. the previous evening accompanied by an unknown black male dressed as a female in the passenger seat.  Durden and his passenger then meet with another unknown black male and go into and out of rooms 225 and 229 several times.  These rooms are on the second floor.  Durden is then seen entering and remaining in room 225 while the two unknown subjects loiter outside of room 225 in the breezeway overlooking the parking lot.  Durden’s vehicle is parked just below these rooms, on ground level, and within view of the camera.  The two unknown subjects appear to go downstairs to the parking lot area and the unknown black male is seen walking around both sides of Durden’s vehicle, looking into the vehicle, and then walking away.  The alarm on Durden’s vehicle appears to activate several minutes later at 12:29 a.m. as the vehicle lights begin flashing.  A faint silhouette can be seen near Durden’s vehicle when the alarm activated but it is not discernible due to video quality.  Durden’s vehicle is later seen leaving at approximately 2:14 a.m..  Durden is later seen returning in his vehicle at around 7 a.m.  hours and parking in the same parking space.  Durden then is then seen meeting again near rooms 225 and 229 with the unknown black male dressed as a female.  Durden then is seen making a phone call and waiting by his vehicle until RCSO arrived to meet him. 

   After reviewing the video footage I asked Durden who was leaving in his vehicle at 2:14 a.m. as it did not match his original statement and he confirmed he was leaving in the vehicle at that time.  Durden now advised he woke up in room 225 and nobody was around so he left.  Durden advised that he left alone and drove to his residence in Grovetown where he laid down and got some more sleep.  Durden advised that after he later woke at his residence, he went outside to his driveway and discovered his vehicle had a broken window and his firearm was gone.  Durden advised at this time he initially thought the theft occurred in the driveway at his residence until he noticed there was no glass on the ground.  Durden advised he found that strange and determined that the broken window must have previously occurred at the Motel 6 but he just did not notice it at the time.  Durden advised he hadn’t noticed any broken glass before leaving Motel 6 or during his drive home and that he normally rides with the windows down so the lack of a driver’s window did not seem unusual to him.  Durden was asked if he noticed the pile of broken glass he was sitting on in the driver seat and he advised he did not notice.  Durden advised he then returned to the Motel 6, at around 7 a.m., where he met again with the unknown male dressed as a female to ask her if she knew anything about what happened to his car and he was told no.

   The two unknown subjects were not present for interview or identification.  Durden advised he only knew the unknown male dressed as a female as “Bambi” with a phone number of [redacted].  Durden advised he did not know the other male subject at all but his phone number was [redacted].

   Durden was provided the case number on a business card.  Motel 6 manager Zulema Arias was asked to save the video footage from this incident and contact RCSO when a copy is available for pick up.  Stephens(C615) in RCSO Records Division was notified with the firearm information for GCIC.  BWC was used to record.