Deputies with the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office are still on duty at the Pittsburg County Courthouse — just not as many as before.

Deputy Jeremy James is now in charge of security at the courthouse, said Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris. He's assisted by officer J.D. Holloway, who is a security officer at the courthouse on a part-time basis.

Previous courthouse deputy Jimmy Wilson and recently-hired courthouse deputy Don Murray have resigned, Morris said.

Murray, a former Eufaula police chief, had been hired in October to augment the security staff at the courthouse. Pittsburg County commissioners have gone on record as wanting at least two full-time officers on courthouse duty. That would allow one deputy to monitor overall courthouse security while another officer handles security during courtroom action, for example.

The sheriff still wants to add another deputy to serve at the Pittsburg County Courthouse.

"We're searching for another qualified deputy to have up there full-time," said Morris. The sheriff said there had been only one full-time deputy on duty and the courthouse for years. He indicated he wants a well-qualified officer to fill the position.

"We want a good one," Morris said.

The sheriff said he did not know for sure why both of the full-time officers who had been on duty at the courthouse resigned. He did say that neither officer completed training required in the use of a nonlethal JPX Pepper Gun. However, Morris said neither officer cited that as the reason for their leaving the employment of the Sheriff's Office.

Morris said Wilson turned in his two-weeks notice, while Murray's departure was more sudden.

Sheriff's officers undergoing the JPX Pepper Gun training are not required to be shot with the gun but they are required to get a taste of what it's all about.

"You shoot one round into a target," Morris said. "It shoots out a gel-like blob of pepper." 

The gun is designed to eject the pepper gel forward at a speed of to 405 miles per hour. It's designed with the idea of incapacitating whoever is struck in a specific area by the peppery substance.

Morris said the training for his deputies required them to shoot the peppery gel into a target, then for the deputy to put his or her pinky and index finger into the substance. Then, the training requires trainees to use their fingers to apply the substance to their lips, their nose and their tongue, the sheriff said.

The sheriff said he underwent the training himself.

What does it feel like?

"It's like a hot pepper," said Morris.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

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