An East Point family plans to sue the city and police department over the death of a 24-year-old who was shocked with a Taser six times while handcuffed, including once while in a creek.
As required by state law, the family of Gregory Lewis Towns Jr. has provided East Point with its notice of intent to sue. The lawsuit is expected to be filed later this month.
The report from the medical examiner classified Towns’ death a homicide and “physical exertion and conducted electrical stimulation” contributed to his death.
“What I want is justice, not just for Gregory but for all people,” Claudia Towns, his mother an administrator at a Metro Atlanta hospital for 30 years, said Thursday. “If this could happen to my son, it could happen to yours.”
The suit will be brought on behalf of Gregory Town’s 7-month-old son.
According to police reports of the April 11 incident, Towns was hit with a Taser six times because would not get up when the officers told him to stand. One of those times came while he was lying in a creek.
One of the officers, former Cpl. Howard Weems, was fired and is appealing his termination. Former Sgt. Marcus Eberhart, resigned in lieu of termination. Neither Weems nor Eberhart returned telephone messages left at their homes Thursday.
Also after the GBI and internal investigations were completed, every East Point police officer had to give up their Tasers until they went through retraining, Chandler said.
The two left the force after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation completed its review and the police department had completed its own internal investigation. The findings in both investigations have been given to the Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said he was waiting for a “crucial piece of evidence” and should make a decision about potential criminal charges within 30 days.
“We regret the loss of any life,” said East Point PD spokesman Lt. Cliff Chandler.. “We’re just not happy with anyone losing their lives. It was a bad deal.”
According to reports from officers involved that day, a patrol car was dispatched after a report of a domestic dispute at the townhome of Towns’ girlfriend. Towns had left the townhouse and was leaving the property when a patrol car got there.
Towns ran for almost a mile.
When the five officers chasing Towns caught up with him, he was lying on the ground.
The officers told him to stand but he said he was “tired from running” and needed to rest a few minutes.
According to the reports, even after Weems placed his Taser against Towns’ skin and sent a five-second charge into him, Towns still said he was too tired to walk. He sat down again even after two officers helped him up.
Five more times he was hit with a Taser, including one time after he had slipped down an embankment and into a creek. That time, according to one of the reports, Eberhart shocked himself as well because he was also standing in creek water when he discharged his Taser.
“We could not get Towns out of the creek due to his size and weight,” Eberhart wrote about the man who 6-foot-3 and weighted about 275 pounds. “Towns was quiet and not speaking. I then checked his neck for a pulse. I was wet and cold and could not get a clear pulse.”
Paramedics who arrived moments later also could not get a pulse.
“This man was tased to death, multiple times, while in handcuffs,” the family’s attorney Chris Stewart said comparing to the 1992 police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.”This situation … is so much worse because a young man was on the ground and prodded six times, like cattle.”
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