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April 11--  The City of Vidalia is giving its police chief till the end of April to decide if he wishes to retire.

Chief Frank Waits was placed on administrative leave without pay Tuesday by City Manager Nick Overstreet following a Monday night executive session by the city council.  According to Chief Waits, he was told the city wants to go "another direction" with the police department.

City officials don't comment on personnel matters, however, three members of the city council have been in contact with Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman in the aftermath of the murder at R.J. Pope's Menswear in Vidalia last November.

Vidalia police had questioned the accused killer, Tyrone Burns, in a domestic violence case with his girlfriend October 30, but no charges were filed.  Chief Waits said the woman, Teresa Sherry Byas, was uncooperative and refused to make a statement.  After the shooting at R.J. Pope's, the District Attorney indicted Burns on the domestic violence case before securing a murder indictment against him, "We basically said we're going to prosecute this case and you're going to cooperate.  We found out this guy had a bad history of doing the same thing.  She didn't want to cooperate even then but we forced the issue."

Altman says if Vidalia police had placed Burns in custody after the domestic incident, a records check would have revealed his criminal history and pending cases in Florida and would have led to his extradition.

"When everyone was asking me how it came about that he was not arrested or nothing was done with the domestic, I said you will have to ask the officer.  I'm sure that played a part in the council's decision as to what took place, what could have taken place and what may have prevented the circumstances that eventually ended up in the murder at R.J. Popes.  I'm sure that played a part in the council's decision," the DA said.

Altman said he met with Vidalia City Council members Raymond Turner and Cecil Thompson and talked on the phone with Lisa Chesser.  In addition to the R.J. Pope murder, he said they discussed the gang problem in Vidalia and the city's non-participation in the area drug task force which he believes is a mistake.

The chief is 63-years-old and has been in the job for 14 years.  Under his leadership, the department became certified by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, one of only 126 in the state to earn that distinction. 

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