An investigation into an ex-Athens police officer’s use of force when he hit a fleeing suspect with his patrol car in June ended Friday, and his use of force was deemed “reasonable” by the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PAC).
On June 1, officer Taylor Saulters hit Timmy Patmon, who had active warrants for possession of methamphetamine, with his car during a chase, which prompted internal investigations by the GBI and Georgia State Patrol, AJC.com previously reported.
The results of both investigations were given to PAC, and Executive Director Peter Skandalakis’ findings report said: “Officer Saulters acted within the scope of his duties. His Use of Force in this case was reasonable and, therefore, further investigation and/or criminal prosecution is not warranted.”
While chasing Patmon, Saulters hit a curb and flattened one of the vehicle’s driver side tires. According to the report, this “affected the steering of his car,” which contributed to Saulters hitting Patmon, 24, with his car.
The report also said Patmon’s “attempts to crisscross back and forth behind and in front of the patrol car” also led to the collision.
In the end, Saulters “did not act with criminal intent and did not use his vehicle as a weapon,” according to the report.
Saulters, 23, spoke to Channel 2 Action News after PAC’s findings were released, and he said it was a “heavy burden lifted off” his family’s shoulders.
The day of the incident, cellphone video and dash cam video of the incident prompted backlash on social media against the police department.
“When it all happened, I had to move because I was receiving death threats,” Saulters said. “My family has been put through a lot with this and to have this kind of news is a blessing for me and my family.”
Saulters stands by his actions and told Channel 2, “I feel I did nothing wrong.”
Within 24 hours of the incident, former Athens police Chief Scott Freeman fired Saulters. Later that week, Freemen defended his decision to fire the officer because he said Saulters “intentionally” hit the suspect.
“I told my police officers that it was not acceptable under any circumstances, and I would not allow for our officers to have the perception that it was OK to use a police vehicle to chase down anybody in that same situation,” Freeman told Channel 2 at the time.
In September, Freeman resigned after being asked to by County Manager Blaine Williams. Less than two weeks later, Deputy Chief Justin Gregory also resigned.
Within two days of Saulters being fired, he was hired by Oglethorpe County Sheriff David Gabriel, which prompted backlash and protest outside the sheriff’s office in mid-June.
After PAC’s findings were released Friday, Gabriel said, “I hope in reading this report you realize that I did make the right decision even when it may not have been a popular one with some citizens,” in a Facebook post.
Patmon, who only received minor injuries when he was hit by Saulters, was arrested on Aug. 23 after allegedly running from another Athens officer, AJC.com previously reported.
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