Following the apparent suicide of long-time Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant Monday, commissioners met in closed session for most of the day on Tuesday and appointed Matt Coates as interim sheriff.

Coates - who had been working as an investigator for the district attorney’s office - was sworn in at the Tuesday session and assumed his duties at the Sheriff’s Office immediately.

Within hours of Coates taking office, four people were suspended without pay including Chief Deputy Jason Upshaw, Captain Randy Fowler, Lt. Bobby Mendez and Sgt. Weldon Wilson.

”This is a very trying time in the sheriff’s office especially for those who have been here for some time," Coates said Wednesday. "I cannot speak directly about the suspensions on Tuesday because those are personnel matters. What I can do is assure the people that we are packed full of very good people here, most of whom I have worked with either as an officer on the streets or on cases at the DA’s office.

“I can assure you that I have full confidence that we will cover the streets and do our jobs right for the people. Also, we have six reserve officers.”

Coates said he will be in the interim position through the end of the year, then start a two-year stint until the next regular election cycle.

“We feel we got exactly the right person to fill this position. Matt Coates is an exemplary officer," said County Judge Tab Thompson. "His honesty, ethics and integrity as well as his long and successful career in law enforcement made him as excellent a choice for this job as we possibly could make. We’re very fortunate to have someone of his caliber to step in immediately as interim sheriff.”