National News

Georgia Police Officer Is Fired After Striking Man With Patrol Car

Posted June 4, 2018 9:16 a.m. EDT

A rookie police officer in Georgia was swiftly fired over the weekend after body camera video showed him striking a man with his patrol car during a pursuit.

An internal investigation by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department determined that Officer Taylor Saulters used excessive force when he struck the man, Timmy Patmon, with his vehicle Friday. Chief Scott Freeman fired Saulters on Saturday after initially placing him on administrative leave, said Eppi Rodriguez, a police spokesman.

The Georgia State Patrol is investigating the crash and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is conducting a criminal investigation, Rodriguez added. Patmon suffered scrapes and bruises and was taken to a hospital for evaluation, a police statement said.

“We work every day to build a rapport and relationships with the community so that when situations like this occur they know we will act in good faith,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll continue to be transparent and answer questions.”

Efforts to reach Saulters were unsuccessful Sunday, and Rodriguez said the department was not associated with a union that represents its officers. Saulters had been with the department for about a year, Rodriguez said, and had an “exemplary record” before Friday’s episode.

Patmon, who is in his mid-20s, was wanted on a felony probation warrant stemming from a drug charge involving possession of methamphetamine and marijuana, Rodriguez said. He was arrested and charged with felony probation violation and misdemeanor obstruction of a law enforcement officer.

In a statement posted on Facebook, police said the chase began Friday around 7:30 p.m. Officer Hunter Blackmon and Saulters were on patrol when Blackmon saw Patmon, who he knew was wanted on a felony probation warrant.

As the officers confirmed the warrant and attempted to confront Patmon, he fled, police said. Blackmon chased him down a sidewalk on foot while Saulters tried to get ahead of him with his police vehicle, the statement said.

A recording from Saulters’ body camera, which was released by the police Saturday, shows Saulters, who is white, swerving left toward Patmon, who is black. The car hits a curb, flattening the front tire on the driver’s side, during an apparent attempt to block Patmon’s path, police said.

Patmon then emerges to the right of the vehicle, which Saulters had driven back onto the road. As Patmon moves in front of the car, Saulters keeps driving and strikes him. The police said Saulters was maneuvering in an attempt to accelerate past Patmon.

“We got him,” Saulters says on the video, which has been viewed more than 100,000 times on Facebook.

After a struggle on the ground, Saulters commands Patmon to “give us your hands now or you’re going to get tased.”

“Make a good decision,” he warns, as onlookers yell in protest.

“I got him with my car — that’s what they’re yelling about,” Saulters says later.

Officers then request an ambulance for Patmon and later allow a woman to give him a cigarette.

Eventually, Saulters drives for several minutes to another location. When he exits the vehicle, he immediately tells other police officers, “I didn’t hit him with the car; I blocked him with the car.”

“He ran into the hood of my car and bounced off,” he continues.

Another police officer asks Saulters if he has his body camera on.

“As long as you didn’t make some kind of overt movement to strike him,” the officer says, “you’re going to be fine.”