Three Clayton County police officers have been fired, and two others disciplined, after an internal affairs investigation showed the five violated policies and procedures.
Lt. Tina Daniel said officers Michael P. Brayton, Benjamin A. Hernandez, and Richard R. Meehan, were fired as a result of an incident on Oct. 24, involving the arrest of a pedestrian in Riverdale.
Two others, Sgt. Kevin Cameron and Officer David Ricks, were disciplined. Daniel said one received a reduction in rank, and suspension without pay, and the other got a letter of reprimand.
Jonesboro attorney Keith Martin represents the three fired officers and defended their alleged actions.
“I think under the facts and circumstances of what was going on at the time and what they knew, and they knew a great deal, they acted first, reasonably, and second, in compliance with departmental policy and the way they had been trained,” said Martin.
An internal affairs investigation revealed that the three were directly involved in the detention and arrest of a pedestrian violator, said Daniel. The pedestrian, Taymar Frederick Williams, was suspected of hiding marijuana in his rectal area and putting the drugs in his mouth and swallowing, in an attempt to destroy evidence.
Williams, 30, of Riverdale, was cited for walking in the roadway, obstruction of an officer and tampering with evidence. He pleaded not guilty in Clayton County State Court and has a March trial date. According to Clayton County court records, Williams has a history of secreting drugs within his body.
The police incident report filed by Brayton details Williams’ encounter with police on Oct. 24. The report alleges that Williams acted nervous and appeared to be ready to flee during the encounter. Police arrested Williams and he was put in the backseat of a patrol car.
Brayton states in the report that he smelled a strong odor of marijuana around Williams and transported him to the North Precinct for a more thorough search. During the ride, Brayton said he noticed that Williams had worked his cuffed hands from behind his back to under his calves.
"I observed the offender had partially exposed his buttocks and had apparently removed an item from his rectal area and placed it in his mouth," states Brayton's report. "The offender began to chew and attempt to destroy the possible marijuana evidence."
Police said Williams refused to obey orders to stop chewing and would not open his mouth.
Daniel said the investigation showed that officers violated departmental procedures regarding the use of “force continuum.”
"In an attempt to retrieve the suspected marijuana from the violator's mouth, the officers restrained the violator and physically attempted to force open his mouth by applying pressure points and inserting a plastic, flex-cuff into his mouth," she said.
Martin said the flex-cuff was used to remove the drugs from between Williams’ clenched teeth and cheeks.
“The flex-cuff was run around his mouth between the teeth and cheek to try to get the marijuana out,” said Martin. “It was not ever forced down his throat. That never happened.”
Officers then conducted a strip search to locate additional drugs Williams may have hidden in his rectal area, according to the report.
"The officers failed to follow proper departmental procedures pertaining to a strip search of the violator, and failed to seek supervisory approval," said Daniel.
But Martin said the three had other uses of force at their disposal that they did not use, showing they were taking care in handling Williams.
“They did not employ any of the more forceful options available to them,” he said. “For instance, the use of an asp, OC spray, a Taser or a gun ... These three were trying to keep from hurting him, but do their duty at the same time.”
The officers are appealing their firing. “We are pursuing a Civil Service appeal and will wait for that to be docketed, and a date set,” said Martin.
Williams has a long criminal history in Clayton County, according to records. He served two stretches in Georgia state prisons in 2005 and 2006 for drug convictions. Records show he has been arrested in Clayton for fleeing from police, simple battery, family violence, crossing the guard line with marijuana, which was reportedly secreted within his body; fighting, drug possession and tampering with evidence.
Clayton County State Court records show he was cited for driving without a license on Jan. 5.