Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy Brian McDuffie was fired Monday for his involvement in an Aug. 3 incident in which a 15-year-old boy was injured.
Kyvan James, who was charged with obstruction of an officer, and his mother, Kenya James, alleged that deputies used a metal flashlight to repeatedly strike the teen in the head.
Three deputies had tried to detain the teen and another juvenile about 11 p.m. while investigating a burglary on Leawood Court in Hephzibah, but Kyvan James fled on foot. The deputies caught up with him near his Gebhardt Court home.
The sheriff’s office has not provided the names of the other deputies involved. McDuffie, 33, was rehired by the agency in June 2012 after being employed there from 2008 to 2011.
Kenya James was speaking to the Augusta Commission’s public safety committee Monday when Sheriff Richard Roundtree announced McDuffie’s firing. She had her attorney and friends by her side, while Kyvan was at home with a migraine, she said.
The mother said she was looking not for money but for change at the sheriff’s office, in the form of diversity, proper training, education and respect.
“I’d like to think my son’s incident would have gone a lot differently if there had been an African-American at the scene that he could have related to,” she told commissioners. “I live in a predominantly black neighborhood, and all the officers that responded to that call were Caucasian.”
She said her son, a black teen with dreadlocks, is part of a demographic “that doesn’t see law enforcement officers as friends” and instead might flee the police.
“He made a mistake; he panicked, he had an error of judgment, but he’s 15,” she said.
James said proper training might enable officers to respond with force appropriate to a suspect’s size, then seek medical attention if necessary.
“Once the dust settles, after you hit someone upside the head, ask them if they require medical attention, or if not, do the humane thing and call for medical attention,” she said.
James said she had to beg deputies to call for medical attention for her son.
Education at home and in school would help young people respond appropriately to law enforcement, she said.
As a single mother raising two young men, James said she lacks the experience of what black men encounter with law enforcement, “so therefore, outside help would be appreciated.”
Respect of the badge and of residents are also necessary, she said.
“I’m sure the officers are taught this and are told this, but there needs to be something in place to ensure that respect is happening in these encounters,” James said.
Commissioner Alvin Mason told James he was glad the incident “wasn’t just a 100 percent negative encounter,” noting the responding sergeant whom James said corrected the deputies’ behavior.
James said the internal affairs officers who investigated the incident also “have been great.”
Commissioner Marion Williams said that despite the commission’s lack of jurisdiction over the sheriff’s office, “we do have concern for the taxpayers of Augusta, your son included.”
Bad things do happen to black men, Williams said, referring to the Trayvon Martin case.
“That incident that happened in Florida just don’t happen in Florida,” he said.
James noted that her son had no criminal record and tested negative for drugs at the hospital where he was eventually taken.
Commissioner Bill Lockett said James “had done an outstanding job” presenting her concerns and urged youngsters not to flee the police.
“I know it’s tempting to run, but don’t run,” he said. “I hope that your son will not have any long-lasting adverse effects from what happened.”