By Jonathan Austin
Yancey County News
Two former Yancey County deputies were arrested Monday, charged with felonies after being accused of misusing department property.
Thomas Lloyd Farmer, 42, and John Paul Grindstaff, 37, both also face charges of willful failure to discharge duties.
Farmer, the former chief deputy for the Yancey County Sheriff’s Department, was charged in connection with the pawning of a county-owned handgun, while Grindstaff was charged in connection with the disappearance of two two-way radios.
Farmer’s arrest comes more than a year after the Yancey County News reported that a gun owned by the department had been pawned by Farmer in Asheville. The newspaper investigation showed that the weapon - a Sig Sauer pistol bought for the sheriff’s department in 2003 - was pawned at Alan’s Pawn in late January 2011. The individual pawning the weapon identified himself as Thomas Lloyd Farmer.
According to the arrest warrant, Sheriff Gary Banks swore there is probable cause to believe that Farmer did “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did embezzle, fraudulently misapply and convert to his own use … one Sig Sauer model P226 handgun .337 Sig caliber bearing serial number U684142, belonging to the Yancey County Sheriff’s Office.”
That is the same gun identified in the Yancey County News article of March 2011. County leaders later told the newspaper that Farmer admitted to taking from the department and pawning at least a dozen firearms.
According to his arrest warrant, Grindstaff, who left the department in 2011, was charged with feloniously stealing two Motorola two-way radios “which had been delivered to be kept for his employer’s use.”
Both former law officers were also charged with misdemeanor failure to discharge duties. In the warrants, Banks found probable cause to believe that the two, as deputies, neglected “the office of deputy sheriff by not upholding his oath of office” in committing the crimes for which they were charged.
Both men were fingerprinted and ordered to appear in district court on June 29. Both men were released on bond.