VALDOSTA — A former Valdosta State University student who received national attention for walking on the American flag was sentenced to three years probation this week on an unrelated firearm plea, according to the district attorney.
Southern Circuit Judge Harry J. Altman sentenced Eric Sheppard, 23, to three years probation; $32 per month supervision fee; $50 crime lab fee; a $2,000 fine; reimbursement of $1,036 to Lowndes County Sheriff's Office for expenses in bringing him back from Tampa, Fla., following his arrest there, Assistant Southern District Attorney Brad Shealy said Tuesday.
Conditions of Sheppard's probation include a search clause, 120 hours of community service work, no contact with VSU, Shealy said.
Sheppard pleaded guilty May 31 to one count of carrying a weapon in a school safety zone.
The case stems from an incident where a gun — a loaded, .45-calber Springfield XD — was found in a book bag on the VSU campus, April 21, 2015.
VSU police and the Valdosta Police Department connected the weapon to Sheppard in the days after he had walked across an American flag on campus in April 2015.
Sheppard's protest received national attention when former Air Force trainer and Playboy model Michelle Manhart attempted to stop further protests by taking the flag. Campus police detained but did not arrest Manhart. Police returned the flag to the protestors.
A few days later, authorities discovered the gun on campus. VSU police investigators connected the gun to the suspect through pawn shop receipts.
A warrant was issued for Sheppard's arrest, and authorities spent several weeks looking for him. While avoiding custody, Sheppard shared a manifesto with The Valdosta Daily Times claiming he would “annihilate” anyone who tried to take him into custody. The manifesto also condemned all white people and police.
Sheppard was arrested in Tampa, Fla. He was extradited to Lowndes County.
He was granted bond at $25,000, on several conditions, such as being banned from VSU campus, banned from social media, confinement to his mother's Cobb County residence from 7 p.m.-7 a.m., restricted to staying in Cobb County, wearing an ankle monitor, and being monitored daily by the Southern District Attorney's office.