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Posted: 11:01 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014

Attorney: East Point police used Tasers as ‘cattle prod’ on man who died

By Rhonda Cook

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two former East Point police officers might have discharged their Tasers more than twice as many times as they reported in the death of a 24-year-old man in April, according to an attorney.

Chris Stewart, who is representing the family of Gregory Lewis Towns Jr., said Tuesday former Cpl. Howard Weems and former Sgt. Marcus Eberhart discharged their departmental Tasers at least 14 times, not the six that were documented in the required police reports they filed on Towns’ April 11 death.

While the medical examiners haves said Towns’ death was a homicide, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard is still waiting on evidence before decided if he will present the matter to a grand jury for possible criminal charges.

Stewart, who plans to file a lawsuit this week on behalf of Towns’ family, including his 7-month-old son, said what he has learned in recent days is “beyond belief” and “horrendous.”

According to a report produced by each Taser used on Towns, Weems pulled the trigger on his device four times for a total of 27 seconds and Eberhart activated his Taser at least 10 times for a total of 47 seconds.

“They used their Tasers as a cattle prod on Mr. Towns while handcuffed,” Stewart said.

As required by state law, Towns’ family has notified the city of East Point of their intent to sue.

“Mr. Towns’ killing is not about race,” Stewart said, noting that Towns and both officers were black. “It’s about police brutality … going to the extreme.”

East Point has declined to comment because of the potential litigation.

Eberhart, who resigned rather than be terminated, has not responded to telephone messages left at his home.

An attorney representing Weems, who was fired, said the former officer followed the orders of his supervisor, Eberhart, to “drive stun gun” Towns, which involves placing the prongs of the device directly on the skin to deliver the charge. Weems lawyer also said in a written statement provided to Channel 2 Action News that Towns’ medical problems caused his death and not the shocks from the Taser.

The medical examiner wrote in a report that “physical exertion and conducted electrical stimulation” contributed to his death. The report said Towns was overweight, hypertensive and had sickle cell trait.

According to the reports Weems and Eberhart turned in to the police department, their two Tasers were used a combined six times on the handcuffed Towns, including once while he was wet and sitting in a creek. There is a log on each device, however, that shows they were activated many times more, Stewart said.

The April 11 incident began when Towns’ girlfriend called police to the townhouse where she lived with their son. She reported a domestic dispute.

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