On October 20th, 30-year-old officer Antwan Toney of Gwinnett County was investigating a suspicious vehicle parked near a middle school, when he was gunned down by two men inside. The pain of his loss touched many in his community, including a surprising group of its most unlikely citizens.
Sheriff Butch Conway was shocked one day to find a letter in his mailbox, labeled with the return address of his own department. It was written and signed by 20 Gwinnett County Detention Center inmates who wished to express their heartfelt sorrow for his department’s loss.
The gesture alone - criminals expressing compassion and condolences for a law enforcement officer - would have been noteworthy in itself, but the genuine empathy and eloquence with which this beautifully-worded letter is presented exemplifies the absolute brightest shades of humanity. Here is the full text:
“With All Due Respect”
Dear Sheriff Conway,
On behalf of myself and a number of fellow prisoners who are currently serving time in the Gwinnett County Detention Center, I wish to extend condolences to Officer Toney’s family and the G.S.S.O Brotherhood as a whole.
This was a tragic incident that never should have occurred. And though Law Enforcement and Criminals may be considered opposites, the intrinsic value of a Human Life transcends those boundaries by far. Right is right and wrong is wrong. No matter the color uniform.
It is from this standpoint, in a spirit of gratitude and utmost respect that I submit this letter to honor all Police Officers, Military Personnel and First Responders. Your service and sacrifice make the world a better place for all.
In tribute to your courage and dedication, we present this communication that may serve to bring healing, restoration and forgiveness to the lives of all affected by the loss of this Officer. Respectfully submitted.
“I am the resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me, though He may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” John 11:25
The following signatures on this page represent a group of Christian men who wish to express heartfelt condolences to Officer Toney’s family and all Gwinnett County Staff.
This message is not only a testament to the significant impact of Officer Toney’s service, but a symbolic referendum on the true meaning of the “Thin Blue Line.” The Thin Blue Line, we know, is the barrier of society that separates the “good” from the “evil.” It is important to remember, however, that “good” and “evil” represent actions and ideas, not people. Good people can break the law and find themselves designated to that dark underside of the line. But good people who have made mistakes can also rise above it.
“We’re deeply appreciative of this act of kindness from these men. We think that Officer Toney would also be appreciative of their actions and we hope you are, too.” -Sheriff Butch Conway