Former Russell County sheriff's deputy Kirby E. Dollar was found dead this afternoon, authorities said, the same day he was to report to federal prison to begin serving nearly four years behind bars for his role in the 2010 beating of Patrick C. Harrington.
Dollar, 38, was found dead in the yard of a residence in Salem, Ala., apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Jones said deputies responded to the Lee Road 201 residence and requested the Auburn Police Department conduct the investigation due to the Lee County Sheriff's Office role in the Harrington case. Dollar had been ordered to turn himself into the U.S. Marshals by 2 p.m. today.
"It's a hard time for everybody," Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said this evening. "Nobody likes to see a family suffer and go through this type of ordeal. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, wife, mom and dad. I hope God will give them some type of comfort and blessing."
Former Sheriff Tommy Boswell, who was in the final weeks of his tenure at the time of the beating, said there have been "no winners, none whatsoever" in this case. "It's a sad day," Boswell said. "That's all I can say."
Dollar pleaded guilty in August to a civil rights violation and was sentenced last month to three years and 10 months in federal prison. His co-defendant in the case, Timothy A Watford, who was convicted at trial Sept. 1, was sentenced to 34 months, or just less than three years.
Watford also had been scheduled to turn himself today and is now in federal custody, a U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman said.
At his sentencing hearing last month, Dollar said little and listened impassively as the judge lectured him about the higher standard to which law enforcement officers should be held. “I accept any punishment you give me,” Dollar said.
The beating happened Nov. 26, 2010, in the parking lot of a Mullin Road garage in Lee County. Harrington, a 32-year-old with an extensive criminal history, had just been captured on outstanding warrants. Dollar, who had been eluded by Harrington on two occasions, received word of the arrest from a bondsman and drove to the scene with Watford.
Harrington, who lay handcuffed on the ground, was beaten about his head and body, receiving numerous cuts, facial fractures and a ruptured eardrum. He's since filed a multimillion-dollar civil rights lawsuit seeking damages for those injuries. Though both men were convicted of the same civil rights offense, Dollar, by all accounts, was the primary aggressor in the beating. Watford admitted standing by during the assault, but he insisted at trial that his only contact with Harrington came after the fugitive spat blood on him.
Court filings before Dollar's sentencing portray him as a broken man whose life was devastated by the beating, most particularly the financial and emotional toll it took on his immediate family.
"The impact of Mr. Dollar's behavior in this case has negatively impacted almost every aspect of his life," federal public defender Christine A. Freeman said in a sentencing memorandum.
According to court papers, Dollar lost his job at Satellites Unlimited in September 2011. "When Mr. Dollar lost his job, they could not longer afford the mortgage payments on the home they made plans to purchase and they were forced to move out," Freeman said in the memo.
Dollar's wife wrote an emotional letter to the judge before sentencing: "I have watched Kirby's spirit become broken since this incident," Vena S. Dollar wrote. "Before this incident, Kirby was the one everyone int he family called if they had any questions related to law enforcement. Now, Kirby will not take the calls."
Dollar's mother had purchased him Christmas ornaments of police cars and "other law enforcement figures," she wrote. "I found that he he placed them in the shed boxed up. [He] is very ashamed of his actions and has no longer embodied the role of a law enforcement officer."
Harrington received word of Dollar's death today from his attorney, Mark Shelnutt of Columbus. Shelnutt said Harrington was "speechless" at first and then expressed sorrow at the news.
"He has never wanted any harm to come to anybody," Shelnutt said. "The thought of having to go to federal prison and go to sleep every night with that image of Harrington’s face, that’s a different burden.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to (Dollar's) family, but his nightmare has ended," Shelnutt added. "There are a whole lot of people who were impacted that night who will have them for the rest of their lives."