The Athens-Clarke County police chief defended his decision to fire one of his officers, but secretly recorded video appears to show him contradicting himself, Channel 2 Action News reported.
Chief Scott Freeman spoke to Channel 2 amid the controversy over his quick decision to fire Taylor Saulters over an incident that took place less than 24 hours before.
Dashcam video from June 1 allegedly shows Saulters driving behind a wanted felon, Timmy Patmon, hitting a curb and blowing out a tire. Saulters then appears to turn his vehicle into the man, hitting him.
The internal investigation report, released two days after Saulters was fired, found that, “Officer Saulters’ use of the patrol vehicle was a seizure of Patmon through a means intentionally applied ...”
However, Freeman allegedly told the rest of his officers something completely different before the investigation was complete, Channel 2 reported.
Saulters’ attorney, Philip Holloway, helped Channel 2 obtain a recording of Freeman, who didn’t know he was being taped, where he seems to defend Saulters.
“(I) want you to know right from the very beginning, I do not think regardless of what the GBI determines that he intended to hit him,” Freeman said in the recording. “There’s not a fiber in my body that believes that.”
But Freeman defended his decision to Channel 2 and said he wasn’t contradicting himself.
"I don’t believe it’s a contradiction in any way, shape or form,” Freeman said.
He went on to say that the actions shown on the recording of Saulters will not be tolerated within his police force.
"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.
Holloway has called Saulters’ firing a “rush to judgment” and “uncalled for.” Saulters was hired Monday by the Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office.
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.