June 3, 2018

ACCPD Officer Fired for Hitting Suspect With His Car

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A screenshot from Officer Taylor Saulter's body camera shows him running over Timmy Patmon, who was fleeing police on foot in the Nellie B area.

Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Scott Freeman fired an officer Sunday who, according to witnesses and video footage, hit a fleeing suspect with his car on Friday.

An initial news release from ACCPD said that officers Taylor Saulters and Hunter Blackmon were patroling the area of Vine Street and Nellie B Avenue Friday evening when Blackmon spotted Timmy Patmon, whom Blackmon believed had a felony warrant out for his arrest.

When the officers made contact with Patmon, he ran. Blackmon chased him on foot while Saulters pursued him in his police car.

The Saturday news released stated that Saulters tried to block Patmon's path by driving the car up onto the sidewalk and blew a tire. It then stated that "during the maneuvering of the patrol car, Patmon impacted the right front quarter panel of Saulters' car as Saulters was attempting to accelerate past Patmon."

Police said that Blackmon handcuffed Patmon, and that Saulters drew his Taser when Patmon resisted being cuffed, at which point Patmon stopped resisting.

Patmon suffered "scrapes and bruises," according to police. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital before being turned over to the Clarke County Jail. 

Freeman initially placed Saulters on administrative leave while internal affairs, the Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations investigated the incident. After reviewing the body camera footage of the officers involved, though, Freeman fired Saulters. ACCPD released the body camera footage to the news media.

An internal affairs report released Sunday cleared Blackmon, but said that Saulters used excessive force, violating department policy.

"Officer Saulters used poor judgement in using his patrol vehicle as a means to apprehend a fleeing suspect," said the report. "Had the suspect committed an offense that would have warranted the use of deadly force, Officer Saulters' actions may have been objectively reasonable and would have been evaluated under such facts. There are no facts that were uncovered that would have led to the justification of this level of use of force in this incident."

The report concluded that Saulters intentionally hit Patmon with the vehicle. It also noted that Saulters didn't know at the time what Patmon's warrant was for, only that he had a warrant. The warrant turned out to be for possession of meth and less than one ounce of marijuana.

ACCPD's policy on use of force does not authorize deadly force against anyone who is merely running from police, but can only be used against suspects who are an imminent threat to officers or the public. 

Timmy Shaymar Patmon, 24, remained in Clarke County Jail Sunday night on charges of obstructing a law enforcement officer. His bond is $1,500.