Protester who walked on flag at VSU heads back to Lowndes jail

Eric Sheppard

VALDOSTA — A former Valdosta State University student who received national attention for walking on the American flag four years ago is heading back to the Lowndes County Jail for violation of probation, according to the sheriff.

Eric Eugene Sheppard, 25, was picked up by Lowndes County Sheriff's Office personnel in Cobb County Friday for transfer to Lowndes, Sheriff Ashley Paulk said. 

An arrest in Cobb County for felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor hindering a person making a 911 call violated the terms of his probation, Paulk said. Sheppard has spent the last 15 months in the Cobb County Jail, the sheriff said.

An indictment filed with the Cobb County Superior Court in 2018 claims, on March 11 of that year, he struck and attempted to strangle one woman and tried to keep another woman from calling for help.

Once in the Lowndes jail, it will be up to probation authorities as to what happens to Sheppard, Paulk said.

"They could cancel his probation, keep him in jail; they have a lot of options," he said.

In Lowndes, Sheppard pleaded guilty May 31, 2016, to one count of carrying a weapon in a school safety zone. The weapons charge stemmed from an incident where a gun 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 walked across an American flag on VSU's campus in April 2015.

Sheppard's protest received national attention when former Air Force trainer and Playboy model Michelle Manhart attempted to stop the 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 the 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.

Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.

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