3 South Georgia deputies fired, arrested over jail beating

‘It shocks the conscience,’ GBI director says

Three South Georgia deputies have been fired and charged after video surfaced appearing to show them repeatedly punching a detainee at the Camden County jail, authorities said Tuesday.

The Sept. 3 encounter drew national attention earlier this month when an attorney posted violent surveillance footage showing several sheriff’s office employees struggling with Jarrett Hobbs, 41, of Greensboro, North Carolina, inside a small cell.

ExploreVideo prompts GBI to investigate use of force in Camden County Jail

Mason Garrick, 23, Braxton Massey, 21, and Ryan Biegel, 24, were arrested Tuesday and charged with battery and violating their oath of office, GBI Director Mike Register said at a news conference.

Asked for his reaction to the jail beating, he said the footage “shocks the conscience.”

“There is a sacred and fragile trust that exists between law enforcement and the communities that we serve,” Register said. “I believe that the majority of men and women who wear a badge in this country truly seek to protect and serve. Unfortunately, some discredit the profession, the badge and the oath they swore to uphold.”

In a news release, Camden Sheriff Jim Proctor said his agency also conducted an internal investigation into the “inmate altercation,” resulting in the termination of the three employees.

Massey had worked for the sheriff’s office six months, Garrick had been there 18 months and Biegel worked for the agency three years. All three men were booked into the Camden County jail, the sheriff said. In addition, two others involved face disciplinary actions resulting from the sheriff’s office investigation. Their names were not released.

“I appreciate the Georgia Bureau of Investigation assisting our agency with this critical incident that occurred,” Proctor said. “The arrest of these employees culminates the criminal investigation and ends their employment with the Camden County Sheriff’s Office.”

Harry Daniels, an Atlanta-based civil rights attorney who shared the video on Twitter this month, called for prosecutors to “bring charges immediately.” He said Hobbs was suffering from a “psychological episode and asking to be placed in protective confinement. But instead of protecting him, these deputies jumped him and beat and kicked him mercilessly like a gang of dangerous thugs.”

On Tuesday, Hobbs’ attorneys commended the GBI for acting quickly and charging the jailers involved, calling the arrests “the first step toward justice.” But they criticized the Camden County sheriff for not acting sooner.

“The GBI launched their investigation and arrested these violent thugs just days after learning what happened,” Daniels said in a statement. “Compare that to Sheriff Proctor who sat on it for more than two months and did nothing and it’s clear who takes justice seriously and who doesn’t.”

The GBI launched its investigation Nov. 15 at the urging of Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Keith Higgins.

Hobbs suffered from swelling and a chipped tooth, Daniels said previously, noting that one of his dreadlocks was ripped off his head during the fight.

After the footage went viral, the sheriff’s office said the video showed “a portion” of the incident and that it would review all video of Hobbs during the time he was in the jail, from Sept. 3 to Sept. 30.

Daniels told CNN his client violated probation on a federal case out of North Carolina by being in Georgia. Jail records showed Hobbs had been charged with speeding, driving on a revoked or suspended license and possession of a controlled substance.

He has since been transferred to a federal detention facility in North Carolina, authorities said.

Register said agents traveled to the North Carolina detention center and interviewed Hobbs during their investigation. The state agency then consulted with Higgins and decided to charge the jailers.

CNN obtained court documents that said Hobbs was warned by jailers to stop kicking his cell door and that the fight started after he refused to comply and put his hands behind his back.

“After the jailers reportedly continued to give him orders and approached him, defendant tensed up, pulled away, and a physical altercation between defendant and jailers ensued,” according to the court documents obtained by CNN. “Defendant resisted the jailers and subsequently punched one deputy in the face while punching another deputy in the side of his head. One deputy sustained a bruised eye and a broken hand as a result of the incident.”

After the fight, Hobbs was charged with battery, assault and obstruction of law enforcement officers, booking records show. It wasn’t immediately clear if those charges have been dropped.

Register said the investigation is ongoing and that additional arrests are possible.

Hobbs’ attorneys said they also sent a letter to the Justice Department requesting that federal authorities investigate whether their client’s civil rights were violated and if the jailers potentially committed a hate crime. Hobbs is Black. The three deputies arrested Tuesday are white.