Former officer sentenced to life, another to 18 months in prison

A former East Point police officer was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for murder and another was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the death of a man who died after he was repeatedly tased.

Fulton Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk was obligated to sentence former East Point Police Department Sgt. Marcus Eberhart to life after he was convicted Friday of murdering Gregory Towns in April 2014. But the judge had latitude in deciding the punishment for former police Cpl. Howard Weems, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and violation of an oath by a public officer.

Newkirk said once Weems has completed his 18-month prison term, he must spend 3 1/2 years on probation during which time he must speak to at least 10 police agencies about the dangers of using a shock device like a Taser. Weems does not have to begin his prison sentence until Jan. 3, after the Christmas and New Year’s holiday. Weems was sentenced under the Georgia First Offender Act so he will no longer be a convicted felon if he successfully finishes his prison and probation sentence.

The Weems’ sentence angered Towns’ family, who said the seemingly weak punishment suggested his crime was not a serious one.

Towns’ death came less than an hour after police were dispatched to Towns’ girlfriend’s home on April 11, 2014, to investigate a report of a domestic incident.

The 24-year-old ran when police arrived but less than a mile away the officers came up on Towns sitting down to catch his breath, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. Towns begged them 10 times to let him rest before taking him to jail.

Towns was handcuffed and sitting when he was tased 14 times over 30 minutes, including while he was in water in a small creek. He died at the scene.