Atlanta officer fired after using Taser, punching woman during arrest

An Atlanta police sergeant who used a Taser on a woman and punched her during an arrest in front of her young daughter has been fired, the department said Tuesday.

An internal investigation into James Hines’ actions found “that the force used during the arrest was unnecessary and inconsistent with Atlanta Police Department training,” police said in a statement.

Hines was fired Friday, two weeks after he arrested Maggie Thomas outside her northeast Atlanta apartment.

The May 1 altercation began when Hines was patrolling in Thomas’ complex, according to an incident report obtained by The officer had been told to look out for a silver Infiniti similar to one Thomas and her daughter were sitting in, the report said.

Hines approached Thomas, who reportedly became agitated, asking who the officer’s superiors were and saying “there shouldn’t be a white officer harassing her,” according to his report.

The officer left after the verbal exchange, but he returned after discovering that Thomas had an outstanding warrant for allegedly failing to appear in court for a speeding ticket, according to the report.

At that point, Hines wrote that Thomas became combative and refused to comply, holding her 4-year-old daughter with one hand while using the other to call 911 as he tried to place her in handcuffs.

Bystanders recorded the ensuing scuffle on their cellphones.

At one point, the woman used her head to honk the horn and get others out of their apartments, the report said. One of the neighbors eventually got Thomas’ daughter out of the car. The woman continued to resist arrest, and Hines took her to the ground and used his Taser to get her to surrender her other arm, he wrote in his report.

As Hines tried to get the woman into his patrol car, she allegedly bent over and bit him on the hand.

“I immediately punched her in the face and she fell to the ground,” the officer said in the report.

Thomas was charged with disorderly conduct/physical obstruction. Paramedics examined her swollen eye before she was taken to the city jail.

In a statement released Monday, police said they recommended dropping the obstruction charge. The move was endorsed by Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields.

“Based on the investigation by our Office of Professional Standards, the chief recommended that consideration be given to dismissing the charges against Ms. Thomas,” the department said in a statement.

This is the full statement Atlanta police provided to and Channel 2 Action News.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

icon to expand image

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Thomas denied biting the officer, and Hines’ report said he had “no visible marks from being bitten” on his right hand.

“For him to say I bit him, it just made me feel like he was justifying why he physically punch(ed) me like that,” Thomas said.

Hines had been a member of the department since December 2002, Atlanta police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee said. According to his Peace Officer Standards and Training Council records, Hines was promoted to sergeant in 2012. His POST file shows no disciplinary history.

Thomas’ attorney, Gerald Griggs, told Channel 2 Action News he hopes the incident will spark change within the department.

“I believe the higher level of Atlanta police are ready for change,” Griggs said. “We just have to make sure the rank and file understand that there will be accountability.”