Chief’s ex-wife-shooting to go to Fayette grand jury, DA decides

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“No evidence to support felony charges due to the accidental nature of the shooting, [but] we do believe that the evidence should be presented to a grand jury for the possible charge of reckless conduct.” — DA Scott Ballard

Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard announced Thursday that he will be seeking an indictment of reckless conduct against Peachtree City Police Chief William McCollom for the Jan. 1 shooting of Maggie McCollom in the couple’s Peachtree City home. Ballard said there is no evidence to suggest that the shooting occurred intentionally.

Ballard said he will present evidence for the indictment to the grand jury on April 15.

Chief McCollom is currently on paid administrative leave from his job as top cop in Peachtree City.

Ballard on Thursday morning said his decision followed a review of the findings in an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).

“The GBI investigation was very thorough and includes dozens of interview, many hours of video and audio tapes, forensic testing and background information regarding Chief McCollom,” Ballard said. “There is no evidence to suggest that Chief McCollom intentionally shot Mrs. McCollom, nor did the investigation reveal any motive to cause her harm.”

Commenting on the investigation, Ballard said the findings suggested that McCollom went to bed at approximately 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve after drinking an unknown quantity of whiskey and taking two Alleve PM tablets. McCollom told investigators that he customarily consumed alcohol and took the two sleep tablets, said Ballard.

“During the night he was awakened by barking dogs,” Ballard said of McCollom’s testimony. “He got out of bed and took his service weapon, a 9mm Glock, from its holster on a dresser and checked the house. Finding nothing, he returned to bed and placed the gun under the sheets beside his body and Mrs. McCollom’s.”

Ballard said Chief McCollom slept on the right side of the bed and was under the sheets at the time the shooting occurred. Maggie McCollom was sleeping on the left side of the bed and was lying on her stomach on top of the sheets, with her arms raised above her pillow.

“He was awakened by a single gunshot,” Ballard said, continuing the description of the events and noting that the Glock requires a 5-pound trigger pull to fire. “The gun was in his right hand and his palm had blocked the ejection of the spent shell. A powder wound on his right palm corroborates that claim. The chief told the GBI that he must have been attempting in his sleep to move the gun to the nightstand beside the bed. Forensic analysis of the sheets confirm that the gun was fired from under the sheets.”

Ballard said initial reports of two shots being fired was a miscommunication between the chief and 911. The single bullet caused wounds that left Maggie McCollom drifting in and out of consciousness at the scene and having difficulty breathing, though at some points prior to being airlifted she was communicating with first responders about how to treat her, said Ballard. She formerly worked as a nurse in Florida.

Ballard said Maggie McCollom today is still at Shepherd Spinal Center and is paralyzed from the waist down and has experienced numerous complications.

“Our greatest concern is for the health and recovery of Mrs. McCollom,” said Ballard. “Our next concern is for the administration of justice. Although at the present time there appears to be no evidence to support felony charges due to the accidental nature of the shooting, we do believe that the evidence should be presented to a grand jury for the possible charge of reckless conduct since the chief took a loaded gun to bed with him after ingesting alcohol and sleep medication.”

Issues such as the amount of alcohol Chief McCollom consumed and his action of having a gun in bed after consuming alcohol and taking sleep medication will be considered by the grand jury, Ballard said. He also noted that he cannot disclose at this time the amount of alcohol McCollom might have consumed.

Ballard said McCollom indicated that while he had taken a gun to bed on prior occasions, it was not a common practice.

In seeking a charge of reckless conduct, a misdemeanor, Ballard said there is no proof of motive or intent.

Ballard also noted a provision of law that allows a police officer to address the grand jury when a firearm is used during the performance of duty.

“I made the call to let him present to the grand jury,” said Ballard, noting that McCollom is a police officer and that he heard a disturbance outside the house.

Ballard said the GBI report says Maggie McCollom is McCollom’s third wife but is not currently married to the chief and does not want him to be prosecuted.

Will and Maggie McCollom were divorced in Florida in 1999 after a marriage of 11 years, according to the GBI report.

He subsequently married his fourth wife in Florida in 2002, a union that lasted until they divorced in 2014. McCollom moved to Peachtree City to become the assistant chief under then-Chief Skip Clark in September 2012, according to the GBI report.

Maggie McCollom joined her ex-husband in Peachtree City after 2012, though they never legally remarried, according to published reports.

If indicted and convicted of the misdemeanor, McCollom could receive up to one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. — Reported by Ben Nelms.

(CLARIFICATION — Information about Chief McCollom’s marital status was added for clarification.)