DeKalb Sheriff ‘appalled’ by deputies’ actions

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Family wants DeKalb deputies fired for 'overly agressive' arrest

The DeKalb County Sheriff kept his promise Tuesday to punish deputies caught on a viral online video showing their profanity-lace encounter serving a warrant last month.

And Sheriff Thomas Brown even changed the rules for executing civil warrants to non-criminal offenders.

The family at the heart of the controversy, however, doesn’t think Brown went far enough.

“While we are happy that Sheriff Brown recognizes that mistakes were made, we will not be happy until all the deputies involved in this are fired and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Natania Griffin said.

In back-to-back press conferences Tuesday morning at the DeKalb County Sheriff’s headquarters — Brown’s inside his offices followed by Griffin, her son and area activists speaking to media outside the headquarters — both sides argued the results of the internal investigation that concluded with suspensions and a demotion.

Brown said the ranking deputy at the scene the night of July 26 was demoted Monday because he didn't use sound judgement when he tried to help three others arrest Griffin, a mother of three in arrears at the time on a $1,000 court bill.

“That’s why he’s not a sergeant,” Brown said of now-Deputy Dan McGhee, naming the deputies and speaking out for the first time Tuesday morning about the incident. “I’m appalled at what I heard, and that is not the type of conduct I expect from deputies serving a non-violent warrant.”

Three more deputies — Ray Hunt, Charles Dix and Aaron Jackson — will be suspended following the concluded internal investigation, Thomas said. Dix and Jackson will be suspended for 8.5 hours, the equivalent of one day, and Hunt will be suspended for 17 hours, or two days, the sheriff said.

Immediately after Brown spoke with the media, Griffin and her oldest son told reporters they disagreed with the disciplinary action taken by the sheriff and believe all four deputies should be fired.

“The minimal discipline shows that this (agency) can’t be trusted,” said Donavan Hall, Griffin’s 23-year-old son who initially refused to open the door to deputies who came to their home shortly after 1 a.m. that morning.

“I could see the (deputies) totally lost control of their emotions.”

McGhee was called to the Ellenwood home that morning, after deputies serving the warrant weren’t able to get the Griffin or Hall to open the door for more than 30 minutes. Hall had called 9-1-1 and requested a supervisor.

Natania Griffin and Hall said they weren’t informed by the deputies that the visit was to serve a search warrant to Griffin, and the deputies continued to say they were there to enter a different address.

She has since paid the fine.

Griffin called the incident a “perfect storm of a lack of professionalism,” and activist Gerald Rose, who organized the family’s press conference, is calling for the public to reach out to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Over a $1,000 fee, they acted like Ms. Griffin and her sons had committed a burglary,“ Rose said.

The deputies entered the home after a neighbor convinced Griffin to finally let them in, and they put everyone inside, including Hall, Griffin, her 20-year-old son and a 5-year-old boy, on the ground, authorities said.

Brown said he doesn’t believe the deputies were too aggressive, or even violent as Griffin and Hall claim.

“What should have happened is what happened, with the exception of the verbal abuse,” he said. “It was done for the safety of the deputies and for the safety of the people in the house.”

But Brown said McGhee never knew the reason for the warrant and failed to deescalate the situation.

“He had a responsibility to read the warrant and know what he was dealing with,” Brown said. “Once he figured out it was a civil warrant, he should have made everyone back up and calmly explain (to the family) what was happening.”

Instead, Griffin, who said she had unfair and frightening run-ins with DeKalb County law enforcement in the recent past, said McGhee made an already confusing situation worse.

“You were at my home almost three hours and you didn’t know why you were arresting us?” she said. “I did not open the door because I have zero faith in DeKalb County police and in DeKalb County sheriff’s deputies.”

Brown, who is considering a run for a U.S. Congressional seat, is placing limits on when civil warrants can be served.

He said civil warrants will be executed only one day a week before 11 p.m., and only after criminal background checks are made on all warrant subjects to determine whether they might be potentially violent.

Griffin said she is looking to take legal action against the Sheriff’s Office.