Georgia Police Brutality and Police Misconduct
GEORGIA -- The Inspector General's Office of the U.S. Justice Department has the power to investigate misconduct by thousands of federal employees. But it is not clear that anyone is policing the man in charge here.
The Office of Inspector General looks over the shoulder of everyone in the Justice Department, from correctional officers to prosecutors. But we found that the special agent who runs the inspector general's Atlanta office appears to be violating rules that would get other employees in potentially serious trouble.
Cameras caught Special Agent Bill King walking to his government-issued vehicle, tossing his gear in the back seat and driving away at nearly 7 p.m. one evening last February.
It seems inconsequential, but King seems to be flagrantly violating one of the clearly stated rules he's paid more than $100,000 a year to enforce.
Paul Benners retired last year as a special agent who worked in the Atlanta inspector general's office. He says it's an integrity issue. Before retiring, he said he complained to the top brass in Washington, D.C., that King was violating department policies. "It's very clear that the vehicle is strictly for government use and not for our normal and routine commute," Benners said. "Nothing else."
Also, he said that agents sign a document in which they agree to the policy.
"It's very clear that the vehicle is strictly for government use and not for our normal and routine commute," Benners said. "Nothing else."
GEORGIA -- A former Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department officer who pleaded guilty Friday to felony eavesdropping and misdemeanor stalking took a deal offered by prosecutors without admitting culpability, his attorney said Saturday.
Charles Fields' defense attorney, Greg Crawford, who could not be reached for comment Friday, said his client used a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1970, North Carolina v. Alford. The ruling allows criminal defendants to accept a plea deal without admitting guilt.
Fields maintains he did not stalk or record his estranged wife, Crawford said.
Fields joined the former Savannah Police Department in the late 1970s and moved to the Chatham County Police Department, in 1993. In 1997, he returned to SPD, where he worked as a homeless officer until he was fired in January over the stalking allegations.
Crawford said Fields took the deal so that he could get out of jail, where he was being held without bond.
Tammy L. Frye Fields, the former police officer's wife, told police her husband began stalking her after she filed for divorce last year. The couple separated last November after four years of marriage.
GEORGIA -- A Lee County deputy accused of fatally shooting a teenager during a traffic stop and then planting a knife in the young man's truck to mislead investigators has been indicted on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, despite pleas from demonstrators outside the courthouse who wanted him tried for murder.
The grand jury also indicted Donnie Spillers, a captain with the Lee County Sheriff's Department, on charges of tampering with evidence, making false statements and writings, and violation of his oath of office stemming from the Feb. 14 shooting death of Rodger Wesley Beaver, 17.
While the grand jury met Tuesday to consider the case, about a dozen demonstrators, including Beaver's grandparents, stood outside the courthouse holding signs demanding a murder indictment.
"He was a good kid and no kid deserves to be shot in the head for basically nothing," said Sabin Russell, who said Beaver had been his son's best friend.
Spillers and Sgt. Sandra Pressley stopped Beaver's truck in response to a pawn shop burglary alarm.
Spillers shot Beaver while the teen sat in his pickup truck and then placed a knife in the truck to mislead
Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents who investigated the death, authorities said.
District Attorney Cecilia Cooper said the evidence did not warrant a murder charge.
"I hate that Mr. Beaver is dead," she said. "I hate that he'll never take another breath, but I can't charge someone with murder if the facts aren't there to warrant it."
Spiller's attorney, Patrick Edison of Leesburg, said he was happy the grand jury chose to indict his client only on non-felony charges.
Thats right Georgia is now a police state. If you think its part of the U.S.A. your DEAD wrong! During the G8 conference this year, if you decide to exercise your rights to FREEDOM of Speech, the police can and will shoot and kill you!
Folks I hate to say this but after 9-11, you will notice the government to begin to take away certain freedoms we have, all in the name of "war on terror"
On May 25th John Ashcroft made a press release to the public about potential terrorist attacks that will be carried out this summer.
Ashcroft stated that this threat is highly probable, and that there is a grave danger of our nation being struck this summer. During this press release he stated that there were three high priority targets that would be considered major threats. These targets were: THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION, and THE G8 CONFERENCE. The point of this is not to debate whether or not Al Qaida will strike these targets, but rather is to look at this announcement in terms of what it means to the activist community. By announcing that the G8 conference is an Al Qaida target, Ashcroft increased the chances for the governor of Georgia to approve imposing a state of emergency during the conference. This would then result in the “shoot to kill” order being instated while the meeting is taking place.
This is something we all need to be aware of. The powers of oppression have used the War [of] Terror to raise the stakes yet again. They are authorizing the use of lethal force against any, and all threats that “THEY” deem appropriate. This is scary, especially after watching the pepper spraying of children, and the non-lethal application of force on the elderly and disabled, that has happened in the past year all over the U.S.
June 26th, 2004 -- A Richmond County sheriff's deputy has been charged with sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl.
Gerald Schriner, 34, of Grovetown was arrested Thursday on sexual battery charges, said Columbia County sheriff's Capt.
Steve Morris. The alleged incident occurred earlier this month. Schriner has been suspended without pay. Authorities aren't releasing specifics about the case because it is still under investigation.
Schriner was released on $10,100 bond from the Columbia County Detention Center on Thursday. He is a seven-year veteran of the department and worked at the jail.
06/24/04 -- Columbus police officer James Iturralde was released on $7,500 bond from the Muscogee County Jail Wednesday before his scheduled appearance in Recorder's Court.
Iturralde faces charges of being a Peeping Tom and threatening or bribing a witness on Monday.
Iturralde, 31, was arrested after he was accused of peering over a wall at a nude woman at the Aloha Tan salon, 6381 Milgen Road. The 23-year-old woman told police Iturralde offered her $190 in exchange for her silence.
Iturralde's case was bound over to Superior Court.
The officer has been placed on administrative leave without pay until an investigation is completed by the department.
Officer Involved: James Robert ``Bobby'' Womack
5/232004 -- James Robert ``Bobby'' Womack, the Jenkins County sheriff, illegally put inmates to work at his timber business, mobile home park and his home for more than a decade. Under Georgia law, it is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison each time a sheriff uses inmate labor.
Police Officers Involved: Randall Williams
5/04/2004 -- Accused of misconduct police officer Randall Williams was jailed on charges of simply battery, assault under the color of office and violation of oath of office. investigators found that Williams hit a handcuffed prisoner in the face with his fist.
He has been released from jail on a two-thousand dollar bond and has been suspended without pay.
Location: Carrollton, Ga.
4/29/2004 -- A 12-year-old boy accused of strangling an 8-year-old neighbor girl was interrogated for four hours without his parents or an attorney present before reportedly admitting to his involvement in the crime. "My client steadfastly maintains his innocence in this case," said his lawyer, Gerald Word. "If there was an admission, it was not only under duress, it was flat wrong. I imagine I could have this 12-year-old admit to killing John Kennedy." It was only after lengthy questioning that the boy, whose name is not being released by authorities, made a statement to investigators that led them to believe he killed an 8-year-old. The boy was then charged with murder. The boy claims he was "repeatedly called a liar" during the interrogation and was not read his rights before being questioned, Word said. He never admitted to harming the girl, Word said.
01/24/2006 - DEKALB COUNTY -- DeKalb County police officer Patricia Ann White is on the other side of the law after officials say she was arrested for battery.
Police say Officer White was arrested for allegedly battering her 15-year-old son. According to the police report White admitted to grabbing and pushing her son after she had two beers.
Chief Louis Graham of the DeKalb Police Department says at least 37 officers have been involved in domestic violence related crimes in the past three years.
"She was trying to discipline her son--a 15-year-old--he was not obeying her orders or commands at which time a struggle ensued," Sgt. Charles Dedrick with the DeKalb County Police Department said, "...She grabbed him, pushed him down or threw him down to the sofa at which time other people inside the residence got involved and DeKalb police responded."
Officer White has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
She is being held on $2500 bond at the DeKalb County Jail.
01/24/2006 - A group of people broke into the Marshallville police chief's home and burned it down early Friday, a few hours after a man died in police custody, authorities said.
Police also broke up a crowd that had gathered downtown in the city of 1,300 as word spread about the man's death.
Clarence Walker, 48, died at a hospital after two Marshallville officers sprayed him with pepper spray Thursday night while he was resisting arrest on warrants for probation and parole violations, authorities said
About 1 a.m. Friday, several people broke into Police Chief Stephen Stewart's home and set it on fire, destroying it, said John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
No one was home at the time of the fire, Bankhead said, and investigators were determining whether the blaze was connected to the man's death. No arrests had been made Friday morning.
Marshallville is about 90 miles south of Atlanta.
01/10/2006 - DeKalb County Police arrested and charged one of their own on Friday night. Officer Zachary Kronenberger was arrested after an investigation that he tried to break the rules to help a friend.
“An acquaintance of Officer Kronenberger received some traffic citations from another officer from within the department, and those were the tickets in question,” said DeKalb Police Officer Cory Hughes.
Investigators say Kronenberger offered money to the officer that had written the tickets -- asking that he drop them and let his acquaintance go.
That officer turned the matter over to other investigators, and now Kronenberger is charged with two felonies.
“He'll be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, so he has to go through the criminal justice process at this point,” Hughes said.
As a result, a 4-year career at the DeKalb County Police Department is now in jeopardy.
He is charged with influencing an officer and violating his oath of office.
01/02/2006 - A deputy who's been with the Fulton County Sheriff's Office for almost a decade was charged Thursday with stealing and using an inmate's debit card, the department said.
Cletis Heard, who has worked as a deputy since 1996, was assigned to the booking area of the jail when he allegedly took the card from a man who had been brought in on drug-related charges, a department spokeswoman said.
People booked into the jail have to surrender their possessions, which are secured until they are released, said spokeswoman Nikita Adams-Hightower.
She would not go into how much money Heard allegedly spent. But she added, "We're not showing any proof that this has happened before."
But the one alleged instance was enough for Sheriff Myron Freeman to indefinitely suspend Heard without pay, she said.
Heard was arrested about 4 p.m. Thursday and charged with theft by taking, violation of the oath of office, and financial transaction card theft. He was out on bond Thursday night. A court date has not been set.
11/28/2005 - An Opelika police officer has resigned after being arrested and accused of sexual abuse. Auburn police officers arrested Keith Preer on November, 16, 2005, and charged him with second degree sexual abuse.
Officer Preer, 36, was Opelika's "Officer of the Month" in December, 2004, for his work in the D.A.R.E. program, but now he's out of a job. He stepped down Monday after being arrested by the Auburn Police Department. He was arrested after police received a complaint of sexual abuse.
According to Auburn police, the complaint was filed during the summer. Preer was Opelika's head D.A.R.E. officer and was on the force for nine years. Preer has now been charged with sexual abuse, second degree.
According to Alabama law, that is a Class A misdemeanor. Second degree sexual abuse involves a victim older than 12-years-old and younger than 16. According to Lee County District Attorney Nick Abbett, the penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is up to one year in jail and/or up to a $2,000 fine.
Auburn officials say their investigation is still ongoing. Opelika Police Department officials say Officer Preer submitted his resignation Monday, and Chief Thomas Mangham has accepted it.
11/19/2005 - A former Gwinnett County police officer has been arrested and charged with theft and identity fraud.
Officer Lisa Turner was a Gwinnett County officer for four years. She left the department two years ago.
Officer Turner is accused of using checks from her homeowners association after she had been fired from that position, and also applying for, and using a credit card in her boyfriends name without that boyfriends permission.
Gwinnett police call it identity fraud.
“Identity fraud is the fastest growing crime in the United States,” said Darren Maloney of the Gwinnett County Police Dept.
Turner says she did nothing wrong and that the charges are false. She says she plans to fight them in court.
Police investigators say there may be more charges, but none of them involve her time in the Gwinnett County Police Dept.
“This investigation is still active, even though she's just been charged with these two, I'm told there are other offenses that we've come across in their investigation,” Maloney said.
The formal charges for Turner are theft by taking and financial identity fraud.
11/16/2005 - ATLANTA - A woman who says she was slammed to the ground and arrested by a police officer at Atlanta's airport has been paid $350,000 to settle a lawsuit.
The settlement with Stockbridge resident Diana Dietrich-Barnes had been secret. But insurance carrier AIG Aviation gave the city permission Tuesday to release it, said Jerry DeLoach of Atlanta's law department.
Dietrich-Barnes' attorney, Harlan Miller, said Dietrich-Barnes was satisfied with the settlement and ready to move on.
"She is still trying to get over it," Miller said.
News of the settlement comes just a few days after Atlanta's civil service board ruled there was not enough evidence to fire Officer Terrance Alexander for his treatment of Dietrich-Barnes. The city is appealing that decision, so Alexander has not been reinstated with the Atlanta Police Department, DeLoach said.
A video camera captured the Nov. 2, 2004 incident at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the footage was broadcast around the nation.
Dietrich-Barnes had circled the airport several times looking for her 78-year-old mother, who was arriving from Houston, when she stopped her vehicle at the curb to check her itinerary. Alexander told her to move and the outside mirror of her vehicle bumped him when she started to back up, she said.
That is when Alexander pulled her from her car, threw her to the pavement and handcuffed her.
Alexander claimed Dietrich-Barnes had hurt him by slamming her car door into him. But the officer's supervisors dropped charges against the woman after reviewing the video.
The Atlanta Police Department later fired Alexander after an internal investigation found he used unnecessary force.
Since the incident, officers at the airport have undergone training to help avoid potentially volatile encounters with travelers rushing to and from the airport.
10/20/2005 - Thomasville - The Thomas County Sheriff's Office is investigating one of its own.
The arrest report shows that jailer Beverly Elaine Simmons was arrested Tuesday night. The 35 year old is charged with sexual assault on a person in custody and violation of oath of office.
Simmons may have been arrested while at work. The report states that her handcuffs and holster were taken from her at the time of arrest.
10/12/2005 - MOBILE - A Georgia deputy has been arrested and charged in Alabama with trafficking cocaine, the FBI said Wednesday.
Officer Dwayne Turner, 40, a Fulton County sheriff's deputy in Atlanta who works as a jail corrections officer, was arrested by FBI agents and Mobile County sheriff's deputies on Tuesday, FBI special agent in charge Debra K. Mack said in a statement.
Turner, of Jonesboro, Ga., was arrested in the parking lot of a local restaurant near the intersection of Interstate 85 and East Avenue in Montgomery.
A criminal complaint against Turner was filed Oct. 5 before U.S. Magistrate Judge William E. Cassady in Mobile, charging Turner with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
The complaint resulted from a joint probe by the Mobile County sheriff's office and the FBI in Mobile, the statement says.
If convicted, Turner could be sentenced to a maximum 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine.
10/01/2005 - EMERSON — Five empty patrol cars sat outside the police station in this tiny Bartow County city Thursday after the chief and half of his officers quit their jobs.
Chief Edward Bell quit the 13-officer department Wednesday rather than obey orders from the new city manager to fire half his force. Bell's assistant chief and five officers followed him out the door.
"I told them I would not take the liability on myself of getting an officer killed," Bell said Thursday.
City Manager Larry Clark said, in effect, good riddance.
"This is a small hiccup," said Clark, who's been on the job about two months. He blamed the resignations on "some disgruntled employees."
It's debatable whether this city about a mile north of the Cobb County line — population 1,248 — is such a hotbed of crime that the city is now endangered. But certainly the commotion has the hamlet buzzing.
"It's scaring a lot of people," said Neil Myers, who works at his uncle's truck repair shop a block from City Hall.
Without police protection, Myers said, his uncle is concerned that he may have to stay at his shop at night to prevent theft.
Dorothy Tidwell and her nephew Tony Dover, who live just across the highway from the repair shop, have no such concerns.
"The only thing that I know," Tidwell said, "is that Emerson has too many policemen."
Mayor Henry Jordan said the city is well-protected.
"I talked to the Bartow sheriff and the State Patrol, and they're going to help out," he said Thursday.
"I've got police on duty right now."
Dover, 25, who grew up in Emerson, said the reaction of most residents he talked to was "surprise, more than anything."
Suburban development from nearby Cobb hasn't quite reached Emerson.
The town has one blinking caution light and got a Dollar General store last year. Otherwise, commerce is thin.
Not much has changed since his childhood, Dover said. "There's no crime, really," he said. "It's a good place to bring up kids."
City police recorded no murders last year, and there was only one in Bartow County, according to state figures. In fact, the mayor couldn't remember the last murder in the town.
"Seems like there was one, but it's been a long, long time ago," Jordan said. "I'm 69 now and I've lived here since I was 5 and I just don't remember one."
Clark said the city's police force of six full-time and seven part-time officers — one cop per 96 residents — was too big for Emerson.
The national average of sworn law enforcement officers is one for each 435 residents, according to the latest figures available from the FBI.
In cities with populations of fewer than 10,000 people, the average ratio is one officer per 303 residents, according to the FBI's uniform crime report.
Pine Lake in DeKalb County, where city officials say about 900 people live, has one officer for every 180 residents.
The dispute between Bell and Clark has been simmering almost from the day Clark arrived.
Bell and Assistant Chief Mike Powell said Clark tried to micromanage the police department. Bell said Clark threatened to fire him the day after he took over as city manager.
"He threatened to fire me 17 other times and threatened to suspend me three times," said Bell. "It just went on and on."
Clark said he was city manager in Forsyth and in Grantville, in Coweta County, before coming to Emerson.
He said he differed with the chief many times but denied ever threatening to fire him.
"They made the mistake of trying to strong-arm a South Georgia boy who has been doing this for 20 years," Clark said.
Clark said he told Bell to reduce the number of officers, but said he asked him to seek only Powell's resignation. "The assistant chief had slandered me in the local newspapers, and I'm tired of it," Clark said.
Jordan, who is backing the city manager, said he was surprised and disappointed that the two men couldn't work things out.
09/22/2005 - The family of a man who died at the Gwinnett jail after being repeatedly shocked with a Taser has filed a federal lawsuit against members of the sheriff's department.
The wrongful death suit was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta by attorneys representing the family of Ray Charles Austin. It is the first of two Taser-related lawsuits expected to be filed by the families of inmates who have died after scuffles at the jail. Attorneys for Frederick Williams, an inmate who died in a similar altercation eight months after Austin, say they plan to file a lawsuit soon.
Brian Spears, one of Austin's attorneys, said he is seeking unspecified monetary damages in behalf of Austin's two children.
The lawsuit alleges that Austin was shocked eight times with a Taser, which is more than the sheriff's department reported when the incident occurred. After Austin's death Sept. 26, 2003, the sheriff's department stated he had been shocked "at least three times" with the stun gun.
The suit names Sheriff Butch Conway, three of his deputies allegedly involved in the altercation, and Prison Health Services, a Nashville-based company that provides medical services for the jail.
Conway said he had not seen the lawsuit and referred questions to the county legal department. The law department did not return a reporter's phone calls.
Officials from Prison Health Services also said they had not seen the suit.
"It would not be appropriate to comment on any pending litigation or about a patient's confidential records," said Susan Morgenstern, a company spokeswoman.
Austin's attorneys allege in the suit that the 24-year-old man would not have died if deputies and a jail nurse had not forced him to take medication, shocked him eight times, beat and choked him.
A ttached to the lawsuit were documents that Austin's attorneys say are evidence of the number of times he was Tasered. One document was described as a sheriff's department printout of the discharges of the Taser gun used in the incident. The other is a previously unreleased police report that states that the stun gun was discharged eight times in a 13-minute period.
"The printout doesn't lie," said Spears. "The printout shows how many times the weapon was discharged. And the last discharge of the Taser corresponds very closely with the time he stopped breathing."
The altercation was not captured on videotape as was the later incident involving Williams.
Austin never regained consciousness after the altercation. During the struggle, sheriff's department officials have said, Austin bit off a portion of a deputy's ear.
Austin, who had been diagnosed as schizophrenic, was arrested for a probation violation linked to a charge of obstructing a police officer. On the night of his death, medical staff at the jail decided that he needed to be medicated to calm him down. Austin struggled with deputies when they tried to get him out of his cell.
After Austin bit the deputy, he was punched and shocked repeatedly with the stun gun, the suit alleges. He was also choked, injected with psychotropic drugs and restrained in a chair, it said. Austin lost consciousness shortly afterward.
Gwinnett's medical examiner reported that Austin died of a heart attack but the autopsy did not clearly determine what caused the heart attack. Austin's attorneys allege that jail medical officials ignored a doctor's warning that he should not be forcibly medicated. The warning was in his jail medical file, according to the suit. Medical personnel and deputies also ignored Austin's wishes of not being medicated even though Austin had signed jail paperwork stating that he had the right to refuse medical treatment, according to the suit.
"But for the decision on the part of . . . medical personnel to proceed with forced administration of medication, Austin would not have resisted," the lawsuit said. "He would not have been in the altercation . . . and would not have died."
09/12/2005 - Witnesses at The Breaker Box club in Lanett say police showed up and got physical this past Saturday night. News Leader 9 has been given an amateur video of the incident at a Christian heavy metal concert.
According to witnesses, a teenager was calling home to get a ride when police threw him into a light pole and then onto the ground.
"I saw two Lanett police officers. One of them grabbed a young black male, head-locked him, ran him into this pole, slammed him to the ground, put their knee in his back and cuffed him," said John Keith.
That's when the lead singer of "Only After Faith" grabbed his video camera.
"A blow to the back of the head, and a couple of knees to the back. They finally got a little 13 or 15-year-old boy in the car," said Adrian Buice.
The video apparently shows the boy, without handcuffs, refusing to get into the car. The officer uses his nightstick to force him into the back seat.
According to police, they cannot comment on the case until an independent investigator looks into the incident.
"When his investigation is complete, if there's a violation of policy or law, then we'll take steps to address the situation at that time," said Chief Ron Docimo, Lanett Police Department.
Witnesses say people were being pulled from their cars by the officers after trying to leave the club. Keep in mind, we haven't heard the police side of this story yet.
News Leader 9 asked Docimo if this was standard procedure, if the officers have been suspended, or if police cameras show anything different. He said he is not allowed to comment until after an investigation has been conducted.