Columbus Police Investigating Billboard Death
By The Packet
The Columbus Police Department is currently investigating a death incident. Sunday, at approximately 1 p.m., the Columbus Police and Fire Departments responded to an area near Core Fitness on Highway 45, where a body was found hanging from a billboard.
The identity of the deceased has not been released by Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant. However, he mentioned that the man had been seen near the sign structure earlier before being discovered this afternoon.
Authorities reported that a bystander initially spotted the body and promptly dialed 911. Multiple calls were received by dispatchers regarding the incident. A large group of people showed up to shoot cell phone videos and take photos of the death.
While the location of the incident is a public space, Police Chief Joseph Daughtry has urged the community to refrain from sharing graphic images.
“We understand that you may choose to record this, but we kindly request that you exercise sensitivity when it comes to crime scenes, recording, and live streaming. The person involved is someone’s family member, and we prefer that their loved ones are not informed about this through social media. We want to follow the appropriate channels,” said Daughtry.
Columbus Mayor Keith Gaskin also joined Daughtry at the scene. This is the second potential crime scene Gaskin has been to in recent months. The last time he showed up at a crime scene, he stopped an amateur fight match at the Trotter Convention Center, after which he got into a written sparring match on the social media platform with the fight’s promoter.
The deceased has been identified to The Packet as Doug Ballard, a 64-year-old Columbus native. Surveillance cameras captured him near the building adjacent to the billboard sign, believed to be the Shelter Insurance building. Witnesses reported seeing Ballard walking on the catwalk of the billboard that morning, which raised concerns. Later in the afternoon, individuals noticed him hanging from the billboard and immediately called 911. The death is being investigated as a suicide. Ballard has a history with drugs, including arrests for possession of meth. The Ballard family (brother , son) has had to deal with several untimely deaths, including his nephew Shane Ballard, who ran for Lowndes County Sheriff on a pro-pornography platform committed suicide in 2004.