Deputies, Firefighters Accused of Stealing from Accident Scene

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Mug shot photos of (l-r) Randall Keith Atchison, Christopher Duane Ganther, Wesley Gary Harden, and Mark Gillespie Smith. (Columbia County Detention Center booking photos)

Augusta, GA (WJBF) – UPDATE: Two firefighters placed on administrative leave as a result of the investigation into a vehicle fire have now been arrested.

Wesley Hughes and Sergeant Antione Mullins of the Augusta Fire Department have both been charged with Theft by Taking and each given a $1,100 bond.

As of the time of this update, Hughes has bonded out of the Columbia County Detention Center. Mullins is still awaiting paperwork to bond out.


Two Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department employees are on paid leave during their investigation into an incident where a crash victim’s personal belongings were taken from a crash scene on I-20 near mile marker 195 on Saturday, February 20th.

Department spokesperson Dee Griffin tells us that Wesley Hughes has been placed on administrative leave without pay until the conclusion of the investigation regarding his involvement in the theft of private property from the scene of the vehicle fire. Hughes and his engine company were called to the fire on Saturday, February 20th along the Richmond and Columbia County lines on I-20. Hughes was hired by the Fire Department on December 6, 2014. Upon completion of six months training as a new recruit, Hughes was transferred in to a fire station to join the suppression personnel. Sergeant Antoine Mullins has also been placed on administrative leave without pay until the conclusion of the investigation regarding his possible involvement in the same incident. Mullins was hired by the Fire Department on November 9, 2010.

Two Columbia County deputies and two Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies are also involved in the investigation.

The driver of one of the vehicles was taken to the hospital with visible injuries. While working the accident, two deputies and one firefighter took personal property that did not belong to them. These items consisted of various cell phone covers, Bluetooth head sets and cell phone chargers that were scattered about the wreck scene, according to a release from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

After discovering that a theft occurred, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office immediately launched an investigation resulting in four arrests. As we’ve demonstrated in the past, we enforce the law no matter who is involved and the actions of those involved were dealt with swiftly and justly.

The following individuals have been arrested:

Sergeant Mark Gillespie Smith, 38 years old of Augusta, Georgia

Employed with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office for 12 years

Terminated and arrested for Theft by Taking (misdemeanor) and Violation of Oath of Office (felony) bond is $2,200.

Deputy Wesley Gary Harden, 32 years old of Harlem, Georgia

Employed with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office for 7 years

Terminated and arrested for Theft by Taking (misdemeanor) and Violation of Oath of Office (felony) bond is $2,200.

Lieutenant Christopher Duane Ganther, 41 years old of Martinez, Georgia

Columbia County Fire Rescue

Suspended without pay

Arrested for Theft by Taking (misdemeanor) and Giving a False Statement (felony) bond is $2,200.

Firefighter Randall Keith Atchison, 38 years old of Evans, Georgia

Columbia County Fire Rescue

Suspended without pay

Arrested for Giving a False Statement (felony) bond is $1,100.

All four men have been released from the Columbia County Detention Center on bond.

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