A Georgia police officer has been fired after officials concluded he used excessive force and violated department protocol when he intentionally rammed his vehicle into a fleeing suspect.
Body-camera video released over the weekend shows Officer Taylor Saulters, 23, from Athens-Clarke Police Department swerving his patrol car toward Timmy Patmon, a 24-year-old black man who was wanted on non-violent felony drug probation charges. Patmon was transported to a hospital and treated for non life-threatening injuries, and was later taken into custody, Athens-Clarke Police Department said in a statement. “The extent of Patmon’s injuries were scrapes and bruises,” the police department said in a statement on Facebook. “Patmon is charged with violating his probation and obstructing a law enforcement officer.”
Public information officer Epifanio Rodriguez told VICE News that an internal affairs investigation found that Saulters, a rookie who graduated from police academy less than a year ago, violated the department’s policy by using “an excessive amount of force.”
“Officer Saulters used poor judgement in using his patrol vehicle as a means to apprehend a fleeing suspect,” the internal affairs report stated. “There are no facts that were uncovered that would have led to the justification for this level of use of force in this incident.”
The incident began on Friday at around 7:30 p.m. Saulters and Officer Hunter Blackmon were on patrol when they caught sight of Patmon, whom they knew to have an outstanding warrant.
Patmon started running, and Blackmon pursued him on foot. Saulters followed in his car, swerved to the right and rammed Patmon, who rolled up the hood and then crumpled to the ground. As the two officers started to arrest Patmon, a group of onlookers gathered. “Why’d you have to hit that man with your car like that?!” one woman says.
“Give us your hands now or you’re gonna get Tased,” one officer says, as Patmon is face down on the ground. “Do you understand me? Make a good decision.”
Athens police chief Scott Freeman initially placed Saulters on administrative leave and launched an internal affairs investigation. Freeman also asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Georgia State Patrol to conduct independent investigations of the incident. It’s up to them whether Saulters will face charges.
“After reviewing the officers’ body camera footage, and all the other facts and circumstances of this case, Chief Scott Freeman terminated the employment of Officer Taylor Saulters,” Athens-Clarke Police Department said in a statement.
Meanwhile, someone has set up a GoFundMe to raise money for Saulter’s legal fees. So far, it has raised nearly $4,000 out of the stated goal of $20,000. “Please help support officer Taylor Saulters who was wrongly terminated for doing his job,” the page states. “He will need assistance while having to obtain an attorney to defend him against false allegations.”