The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government agreed to a $250,000 settlement with former police Officer Taylor Saulters, who sued the city after being fired amid an investigation into his use of force during an arrest in June 2018.
Saulters was fired within 24 hours of hitting a fleeing felony suspect in Athens with his patrol car during a chase, AJC.com previously reported. The incident was captured on dashcam video, and cellphone video of the arrest circulated on social media after the June 1 incident.
The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PAC) later deemed Saulters’ use of force as “reasonable,” clearing him of criminal prosecution.
The GBI and Georgia State Patrol conducted the investigation into the traffic stop, where Timmy Patmon, who had active warrants for possession of methamphetamine, was hit by Saulters' patrol car while running away.
While chasing Patmon, Saulters hit a curb and flattened one of the vehicle’s tires. According to the PAC report, this “affected the steering of his car,” which contributed to Saulters hitting Patmon, 24.
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.
Ex-police Chief Scott Freeman previously defended his decision to fire Saulters before the multiple investigations concluded. Freeman was asked to resign by county manager Blaine Williams in September, citing an "erosion of confidence" from within the police department and community.
Marietta attorney Phillip Holloway, who represents Saulters, said at the time that Freeman rushed to judgment when he decided to fire his client. The Oglethorpe County Sheriff's Office hired Saulters two days after he was fired in Athens, prompting protests in the neighboring county.
Saulters had a lawsuit pending against the unified government, Williams, Freeman, former police spokesman Epifanio Rodriguez and former Lt. Richard Odum, the city said in a news release Wednesday.
In the release, county attorney Bill Berryman said “the Unified Government continues to deny all liability for (Saulters’) claim.”
The PAC report, Georgia State Patrol incident report and Athens police department’s internal investigation report were cited as “special factors” that were considered in reaching the $250,000 settlement to avoid continued litigation.
Zachary Hansen, a Georgia native, covers economic development and commercial real estate for the AJC. He's been with the newspaper since 2018 and enjoys diving into complex stories that affect people's lives.