COVINGTON -- The story of the neighbors welcomed to the community at gunpoint that swept the internet last week apparently has a happy ending. The Kalonjis and the Canoles, Lower River Road neighbors, have made up and both sides state they are willing to let bygones be bygones and are looking forward to a lasting friendship.
At a press conference held at the Kalonjis home which sits on more than 11 acres at 1419 Lower River Road, Rob Canoles and his son Branden embraced Jean Joseph Kalonji, his wife Angelica and their son Bruno and told them they were sorry for the incident and were looking forward to living harmoniously side-by-side.
"That's why there's no fence over there," said Robert Canoles. "We'll come over here and you can come over there. We're sorry for what happened."
On April 19 around 9:15 p.m., the Canoles saw activity at the empty house which is adjacent to their own. They apparently assumed the home was being burglarized and called the Newton County Sheriff's Office, but the Kalonjis have said Rob Canoles and his son pointed guns at them and forced them from the home where they were changing door locks.
Initially NCSO deputies arrested the Kalonjis and charged them with loitering and prowling. Counter-complaints were lodged by the Kalonjis and after questioning the NCS0 dropped charges against them and arrested the Canoles, charging father and son with aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal trespass in connection with the incident.
Now, the civilians involved in the incident say they're willing to forgive and forget, but the deputies who made the initial arrest are being investigated by the Internal Affairs Unit and the criminal charges against the Canoles still stand.
On Wednesday, however, there was a different atmosphere at the home. The two families were planning to fish together on the lake that backs into both properties and flowers and baked goods were exchanged.
"We just want to clear up any misunderstanding. We're not the people portrayed by the media. It was a big misunderstanding," Robert Canoles said.
Jean Joseph Kalonji assured them he was not mad and said he would "always be your neighbor" and that he would pursue "peace and a good life between neighbors," although he acknowledged that it would be up to the authorities to decide on the consequences for the Canoles.
Robert Canoles said he hopes others will see what happened as a mistake and will learn from it.
"People need to learn a little humanity and trust of each other. Be kind," he urged.
Both sons agreed, slapping each other on the shoulder and promising friendship.
Bruno Kalonji, women's soccer coach at Georgia Perimeter College and assistant director for boys soccer for the Gwinnett Soccer Association, said the family wanted some acreage where they could grow a garden and raise livestock and after searching the internet found the Newton County location. His father and mother own Kalonji's Bakery on Main Street in Stone Mountain. Plans are to officially move in Friday.