DECATUR, Ga. – The Atlanta-based attorneys for Valdosta State University student Eric “EJ” Sheppard are pleading with the sought-after activist to “turn yourself in safely.”
Sheppard is wanted by Valdosta police after authorities allegedly found a gun in his backpack on the campus of Valdosta State. The 22-year-old honors student remains on the run ever since police issued a warrant for his arrest.
It is believed that Sheppard is hiding back in the Atlanta area — he is from the area — which is about three hours north of Valdosta, a city close to the Florida state line.
“Currently, Mr. Sheppard is in hiding,” said newly-hired attorney Mawuli Davis of the Davis Bozeman Law Firm. “He is in fear for his life and for his safety, afraid both of the threats from who we believe are the real terrorists as well as him being labeled armed and dangerous.”
According to reports, Sheppard had been engaged in protest on the Valdosta State University campus the weeks leading up to the gun discovery, railing against systemic racism and demanding justice for the still-unexplained death of Kendrick Johnson, the teen whose body was discovered rolled up in a gym mat. During some of the demonstrations, the A-student reportedly stomped on an American Flag and destroying a Bible, escalating friction between himself and other students and authorities, the media alleges.
The situation turned serious when officers allege the protests appeared to turn more “threatening” and volatile in rhetoric.
A television news camera reportedly captured police seizing a bag with a gun in it. Sheppard’s lawyer Davis said the gun was not in the honor student’s possession and they will vigorously defend Sheppard against the charges.
“We have a history of representing activists who have lifted their voices in order to shine a bright light on social justice issues in America. EJ is a new young voice that we cannot allow to be silenced and criminalized. He is worthy of our support and the support of the community,” Davis stated.
Community supporters rallied around Sheppard at the press conference
“Kendrick Johnson is at the base of this,” said Marcus Coleman, who represented the Johnson family. “The counter protest that was done by the 500-plus members from the local area and the surrounding area, let’s be real here, it was done as a response, not just to Mr. Sheppard, but the city of Valdosta is sick and tired of any strong individual, especially a young black brother, that wants to stand up and put Valdosta on blast for their hypocrisy and lawlessness in some of their agencies,” Coleman said.