Retired deputy shot, killed while attempting to protect co-worker during robbery – Jan. 8

Retired Deputy Felix Cosme was murdered during an armed robbery of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Store on Hamilton Mill Road in January. Photo – Gwinnett County Police Department

The headlines: “A hero’s funeral: Retired deputy killed while protecting co-worker” and “Retired Gwinnett County Sheriff’s deputy ID’d as victim of auto parts store shooting

The summary: Retired Sgt. Felix Cosme Jr., 63, a resident of Dacula, was at work at the O’Reilly Auto Parts store at 2768 Hamilton Mill Road in Buford when a robbery occurred and he was fatally shot while going for his gun to defend a co-worker. The incident occurred Jan. 8, 2020.

The impact: Cosme will be remembered as a hero who was doing what came naturally to him, to protect and serve.


Suspect leads police on chase that ends in gunfire, suicide — Feb. 21

John Monahan crashed into cars on Peachtree Industrial Blvd and later drove into Lake Lanier at Shoal Creek Park. Special Photo

The headlines:Multiple crime scenes active in Buford following crashes and shooting” and “GBI identifies suspect in officer-involved shooting at Shoal Creek Park

The summary: A 26-year-old Ellabell, Georgia, resident, John James Monahan Jr., caused a three-vehicle wreck at a Buford intersection and fled the scene with what was described as an AK-style rifle before carjacking another vehicle and leading law enforcement on a chase to Shoal Creek Park at Lake Lanier. There, he drove into the lake and opened fire on police as the vehicle sank. His body was recovered by divers, and an autopsy showed he died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. The incident occurred Feb. 21, 2020. 

The impact: The incident rocked the otherwise quiet community of Buford, leaving questions unanswered and several people, including a local grandmother and her grandchildren, with minor injuries sustained in the initial crash. Monahan left behind a young son.


Buford’s girls basketball team takes state championship in fourth consecutive win – March 6

The Buford girls basketball team celebrates winning the 2020 GHSA AAAAA State Championship game. Photo by Ty Freeman

The headline: “Buford girls basketball claim fourth straight state title”

The summary: In a hard-fought, nail-biting win March 6, 2020, Buford’s girls basketball team pushed past Kell 66-63 to claim its fourth consecutive state title over its undefeated opponent.

The impact: The win added another title to the seven previous state championships held under head coach Gene Durden in his 15 years at Buford. Players Katelyn Klein and Tate Walters became the first-ever senior class to win four consecutive basketball state championships at Buford.


The Pandemic — Mid-March

Buford City School employees volunteer at the North Gwinnett Co-Op shortly after the lockdown begins due to COVID-19. Photo by Alicia Couch Payne

The headlines:All of Gwinnett under ‘stay at home’ orders amid pandemic,” “Coronavirus impacts local businesses: Closures and shorter operating hours becoming more widespread” and “Kemp orders all public schools closed,” among many other headlines related to the pandemic

The summary: COVID-19 tops the list of stories of the year with numerous headlines ranging from daily death tolls to announcements regarding business and school closures. Beginning in March, the pandemic has been at the forefront of news and likely in citizens’ minds.

The impact: The ongoing pandemic has affected almost every aspect of daily life as we know it, from stay-at-home orders and quarantines to school closings to face mask recommendations.


North Gwinnett residents participate in mostly peaceful protests in aftermath of George Floyd’s death – Early June

People gather outside of Buford City Hall to protest against police brutality. Photo by Alicia Couch Payne

The headlines:Sugar Hill community sets out to inspire change through peaceful protests” and “Suwanee residents come together to demand change

The summary: The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed during an altercation with police in Minnesota, sparked protests in the North Gwinnett area, with demonstrations held in several cities, including Suwanee and Sugar Hill, in early June.

The impact: Local residents joined in a national call for action to end police brutality. The local protest were mostly peaceful in nature.


Mom of young son slain by boyfriend in what was thought at first to be suicide – July 22

Katie Head was killed on I-985 by her boyfriend Lawrence Gray. Special Photo

The headline:Suicide on I-985 in Buford now ruled homicide

The summary: A woman, 30-year-old Katlyn “Katie” Head, was found shot to death on July 22, 2020, on Interstate-985. Her death was originally deemed a suicide, however, upon further investigation, police determined the manner of death was homicide — the woman’s boyfriend, Lawrence Gray, 30, of Gainesville, was later arrested and faced charges in the killing.

The impact: Katie Head was a native of Buford and left behind a young son. Those who knew her said she was a devoted mother.


Back to school begins with challenges amidst COVID – Aug. 12

A piece of artwork created by a teacher that greeted students as they started back to school at Buford Elementary School on Aug. 12, 2020. Photo by Alicia Couch Payne

The headlines:Gwinnett County Schools announce plans to gradually transition back to in-person learning” and “Buford strong: Learning in the midst of a pandemic

The summary: The Gwinnett County School System announced in early August 2020 its plans for returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic — digital learning beginning Aug. 12, some students returning to school Aug. 26, followed by all students whose parents opted for in-person learning returning Sept. 9 — while Buford City School opened its doors to students Aug. 12.

The impact: As the state’s largest school district, Gwinnett was at the forefront in deciding just how to make in-person learning happen despite challenges with COVID-19. Buford City Schools was in the spotlight as one of the first school systems to bring students back into classrooms by offering a choice between digital and in-person learning.


Tropical Storm Zeta leaves two dead in aftermath of destruction – Oct. 29

A large tree landed on a young couple as they slept in their bed in their home in Buford during Tropical Storm Zeta. Photo by Gwinnett FD.

The headlines:Tropical Storm Zeta leaves death, destruction and residents in the dark” and “Two storm-related deaths reported in Buford

The summary: After making landfall as a hurricane in Louisiana, a powerful storm named Zeta made its way to the northeast Georgia area Oct. 29, 2020, as a tropical storm.

The impact: A newlywed couple in their early 20s was killed inside their Buford home after a tree fell on the roof. They were killed instantly as they slept in their bed.


Election 2020 — Nov. 3

Record numbers turned up at the polls to vote in the 2020 Election. Special Photo

The headlines:Election Day 2020: How Gwinnett voted” and “The Vote 2020: A sign of the times

The summary: Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, brought out record numbers of voters nationwide, while Gwinnett saw 71.62 percent voter turnout with 416,458 ballots cast.

The impact: The political scene in Gwinnett County saw a shift from Republican-controlled positions to Democrat-led offices, including county commission chair, district attorney, sheriff, tax commissioner and other county posts. Long-time officials were ousted, shaking up the political landscape of the county.


Buford football wins state championship

Buford running back Gabe Ervin looks for an opening in the Lee County defense. Photo by Alicia Couch Payne

The headline:  “Buford clinches AAAAAA title in OT thriller over Lee County

The summary:  Buford beat Lee County 34-31 in overtime in the GHSA AAAAAA State Championship game on Dec. 29, 2020, to earn the state title in Buford’s first year competing in AAAAAA. Trailing Lee County 31 to 24 in the final minutes of the game, the Wolves scored a touchdown to tie up the score. In OT, Buford scored a field goal and then caused Lee County to fumble to win the game.  

The impact:  Buford has now earned 13 state titles coming in all classifications it has participated in from A to AAAAAA.


Articles featured in the top ten stories feature were written by Deanna Allen, Nida Merchant, Alicia Couch Payne, Anoshka Ramkumar and Hayden Wiggs.

Top ten list was compiled by Deanna Allen and Alicia Couch Payne.


Alicia joined the North Gwinnett Voice, as the Editor, shortly after the first publication. She is a homegrown Buford native, with the southern charm and "bless your heart" included. ...

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