Tybee Island mayor, police chief defend use of force in viral video of 3 arrests

Three arrests in Tybee Island over the weekend sparked outrage after cellphone video was posted to social media.

However, the city and police department said that video doesn't tell the entire story, and the officers' use of force was "acceptable under the circumstances." The city posted two of the officers' body camera footage, surveillance video from the bar and from the street, in addition to three incident reports on Facebook.

On Saturday night, Sgt. T. Leguin was parked on Tybrisa Street near Butler Avenue when an employee at Rock House bar flashed a flashlight at the officer to get his attention, according to Leguin’s incident report. Both Leguin and Officer Bryant Sims walked over to the bar.

Two women were arguing with the bar employee, who was holding an ID card, the report said. One of the women was identified as Olivia Jane Simons, 21, of Savannah, but the other woman’s name remains unknown.

Simons allegedly tried to grab the ID card from the employee, but he held it out of reach. While this happened, the other woman began to walk away, and Sims was sent to stop her, the report said.

The employee would later tell police that the other woman tried to use a 30-year-old woman’s ID to enter the bar. Police Chief Robert Bryson told AJC.com the ID, a driver’s license, was reported as stolen.

The ID card was handed to Leguin, but before he could see it, Simons “snatched” it from him and began to run away, the report said. In Sims’ report, Simons yelled “run Jessica!” before both took off.

During the chase, they spoke to each other “laughing and encouraging each other,” Leguin’s report said. In front of Wind Rose Cafe, Simons tripped and fell, which Leguin said happened without any contact from him.

Leguin and Simons began to struggle on the sidewalk, and his body camera fell off. The other woman, meanwhile, ran away.

While the struggle continued, Richard Harper Stutts, of Rock Hill, S.C., approached and grabbed Leguin’s outer vest, saying “get the (expletive) off her,” the report said. Leguin told him to go away, but the man stayed nearby, watching the struggle.

Simons then “attempted to claw (Leguin’s) face and eyes,” but she only made slight contact with his face, the report said. Leguin then told her he was going to use his Taser “in hopes it would make her think about her actions and she would begin to comply.”

She allegedly refused, and he deployed his Taser, hitting her in the back with one prong while hitting himself in the leg with the other. He then deactivated the Taser before firing a second time, with both prongs hitting Simons.

At this point, Sims returned to the scene after hearing Leguin’s call for backup, giving up on chasing down the other suspect. When Sims arrived, Leguin told him to keep an eye on Stutts.

In Sims’ report, he asked Stutts “do you want to go to jail?” but Stutts took another step forward. Sims then shoved Stutts, telling him to “get the (expletive) back.” Stutts began loudly yelling expletives, which is when the officers “decided he needed to be arrested for disorderly conduct,” Sims’ report said.

During the arrest, Stutts is accused of punching the officer multiple times in the face, and Sims said he began punching back in self-defense. The encounter was captured on the video posted to YouTube and Facebook, which gathered tens of thousands of views and more than a thousand shares and comments.

Content warning: The cellphone video is embedded below and includes explicit language.

So this happend on tybee tonight, tybee was turnt up

Posted by Lance Bazemore on Saturday, August 3, 2019

Leguin’s bodycam footage was posted Monday. On Tuesday afternoon, the police department released Sims’ bodycam footage on Facebook.

Content warning: Sims' bodycam footage is embedded below and includes explicit language.

The incident ended with Sims using his stun gun on Stutts after threatening to use his Taser on him, the report said. Sims went to Memorial Hospital shortly after other officers arrived, and doctors found bruises and swelling on his head, shoulder and hand.

One of the responding officers, Sgt. K. Suggath, arrested another bystander who was yelling at the two during the other arrests. The bystander, identified as Alecia Nicholle Adams of Talladega, Ala., is accused of biting Suggath twice when he tried to get her into a patrol car, according to his incident report. A stun gun was used on her three times, failing each time.

All three suspects face a felony and several misdemeanors. All three were charged with public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and both misdemeanor and felony counts of obstruction, Chatham County jail records show. Stutts was also charged with interference with government property, simple battery and attempting to disarm a police officer.

Credit: Chatham County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Chatham County Sheriff's Office

Mayor Jason Buelterman told AJC.com the investigation is ongoing, and the city’s Facebook post said additional arrests are likely. The police chief also said additional warrants against the suspects in custody are expected to be obtained later Tuesday.

“Know that the Tybee Island Police Department takes citizen complaints very seriously and will continue to do so as we move forward into the future,” the post said.