East Point police chief says he resigned for ‘personal’ reasons

Former East Point police Chief Woodrow Blue said in his resignation letter he was stepping away from the job he has held since 2012 for “personal” reasons.

A spokeswoman for the city of East Point officials said Monday they don’t know Blue’s reasons for resigning on Sunday but they are certain it was “not related” to the chief’s response to an investigation into the death of a 24-year-old man who died after two officers shocked him with a Taser six times while handcuffed, including once while in a creek.

“I thought the police chief handled it well with regard to our case,” said Chris Stewart, the att0rney representing the family of Gregory Lewis Towns Jr. in a planned lawsuit against East Point. “He’s been very upfront that this was a bad situation. He was doing an effective job of trying to get Gregory Towns’ justice. I’m very disappointed if he was forced to resign. He was being very transparent.”

Immediately after Towns’ death on April 11, Blue asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the circumstances around the tasing. Blue ordered an internal investigation as well.

After both were completed, the reports went to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. DA Paul Howard said he is waiting on a “crucial piece of evidence” before deciding if criminal charges will be brought.

Meanwhile, Blue fired Cpl. Howard Weems, who is appealing his termination, because of his role in Towns’ death. Former Sgt. Marcus Eberhart, resigned in lieu of termination.

Last month, Stewart, representing the man's family, notified East Point that a lawsuit will be brought on behalf of Towns' 7-month-old son. State law requires notice before a government can be sued. Attorney Chris Steward said the suit most likely will be filed by the end of August.

An emailed statement from East Point said Blue’s resignation was submitted Sunday and was effective immediately.

“We are grateful for the efforts Chief Blue put forth in heading the Police Department, and we wish him future success,” Mayor Jannquell Peters said in the statement. “I want to assure our residents that public safety is a top priority and concern of the City, and that this transition will not affect that priority.”

In a succinct letter to East Point interim city manager Ellis Mitchell, Blue wrote:”Effective today, August 17, 2014, I am tendering my resignation as the Chief of Police for the City of East Point, Ga. My resignation is due to personal reasons.I have appreciated the opportunity to serve the citizens of East Point, and I wish the City all the best in the future.

Initially, the city declined to release Blue’s resignation letter.

Blue did not return a telephone message left at his home Monday.

The police had been dispatched on April 11 after Towns’ girlfriend and mother of his son called 911 to report a domestic dispute. The first officers to respond encountered Towns as he was leaving the gate to the property of the townhome complex.

They chased him for almost a mile and caught up with him sitting on the ground, resting.

Over the next few minutes, Towns was hit with a Taser six times because he would not get up when the officers told him to stand. Towns said he was tired from running and needed a few minutes to rest. Towns was lying in a creek one of those times.

According to the report from the medical examiner, Towns’ death was a homicide and “physical exertion and conducted electrical stimulation” contributed to his death.

Blue, a 26-year law enforcement veteran and former president of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, came to East Point from Milledgeville, where he had been chief for a decade. He was chief of the Milledgeville Police Department during an investigation into sexual assault allegations involving NFL star Ben Roethlisberger.

He took over as chief in East Point on Jan. 2, 2011. Since then, Blue said in an April interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he had added officers to the force as well as new patrol cars.

Maj. Tommy Gardner, a 26-year veteran of the department, has been named interim chief. The city said it plans a nationwide search to fill the vacancy.

— Staff writer Alexis Stevens contributed to this report.