Michael Shore considered Deputy Bryan Johnson a friend on and off duty at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, and he thought Johnson would never hit someone in handcuffs.
He believed that until he saw it take place more than once the night of July 24, 2009, Shore testified Wednesday.
Johnson, 33, has pleaded not guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to aggravated battery. His trial continues Thursday.
Shore testified that he and Johnson were off duty that night, but dressed in their sheriff’s office uniforms, providing security at the Country Club Dance Hall and Saloon.
They moved together to break up what was escalating into a fight between two intoxicated men on the dance floor. Within moments, they found themselves in a struggle with Christopher Kersey.
Kersey was loud and belligerent, and he took a swing toward Johnson, Shore testified. Shore said he put Kersey on the floor and tried to handcuff him.
He and Johnson both struggled to get Kersey under control, but after Shore got the cuffs onto both wrists, he saw Johnson continuing to use his knee to hit Kersey in the face, Shore testified.
Kersey didn’t make it easy for himself or the officers as they pulled and guided him out of the club, but at the inner wood doors, Johnson used Kersey’s head to get through the exit, Shore said.
“Given the circumstances, I understand why he was upset,” Shore said of Kersey, whom he described as irate and cursing loudly. Shore testified he saw Johnson rear back and punch Kersey in the face at the patrol car.
Shore already had pulled Kersey out of Johnson’s reach once, and at that point he stepped up “to try to cool him down a little bit … to tell (Johnson) that’s enough.”
It took several officers to get Kersey under control, Shore said. Leg restraints were added, and when they failed, they used a second set of cuffs to hogtie him. They took off most of the restraints after he calmed down, and then, Shore testified, he drove Kersey to the hospital.
Shore, who no longer works for the department, said he wasn’t sure what to do afterward. He was a rookie and didn’t want to throw anyone “under the bus,” but he also knew right from wrong and had a family to support, he testified.
“I felt like Deputy Johnson crossed the line as far as the oath he took when he signed up for the job,” Shore testified.
“He let it get the best of him,” Shore testified, and added that Johnson put the other deputies there in professional danger.
Chantel Daniels testified Wednesday that she was working in the sheriff’s records division the next day when Johnson brought in evidence.
She said he showed her and another clerk pictures of Kersey and demonstrated how he kneed Kersey in the face.