Brian McDuffie prided himself on being a deputy who opposed police brutality, but now his name appears on police brutality Web sites.
The former Richmond County deputy was fired in August after the sheriff’s office said he assaulted a 15-year-old during an arrest. He initially refused to discuss the case, but he contacted The Augusta Chronicle this month to complain about what he termed a “botched” investigation.
McDuffie, 33, said his firing was unjustified, racist and political in nature.
“They have ruined my law enforcement career and my name,” he said.
McDuffie, who said he has lawsuits against the sheriff’s office and city commissioners, sees irony in that some now consider him a bad police officer. He recalled intervening years ago when he found several deputies abusing a suspect.
“I walked in the house and they were kicking that guy to death,” he said. “I got in the deputies’ faces and said don’t ever do that in front of me again.”
The events that led to his firing started last summer, after Kenya James filed a complaint against him and two other deputies when her son was taken into custody Aug. 3.
McDuffie and deputies Christian Gandy and Jason Payne were called to Leawood Court after a homeowner
said she believed someone was inside her home.
According to an internal affairs investigation, the deputies were searching the home when they heard the homeowner yell, “They are running out the back.” The deputies then saw two black males fleeing. They gave chase, splitting up to catch the two teens.
Payne was able to catch one teen, but it took both Gandy and McDuffie to get the other, identified as Kyvan James.
According to the investigation, Gandy had Kyvan on the ground and was struggling to get him handcuffed when McDuffie came to assist. Police said McDuffie struck Kyvan on the side of his head with a metal flashlight and then stepped on the teen to keep him down.
Kyvan’s mother told police she arrived to find her asthmatic and epileptic son in the back of a police car with no medical treatment and a swollen eye. The teens were released after they were determined to not be involved in the burglary.
According to McDuffie’s Aug. 12 termination letter, Sheriff Richard Roundtree called the act of striking the teen unjustifiable and unacceptable. The officer appealed his firing but lost.
In December, the city settled with the teen’s family for $55,000.
McDuffie admitted using a straight-arm strike to regain control over Kyvan, whom he said appeared to be rolling over and reaching in the direction of Gandy’s gunbelt. He could not say that the polymer plastic – not metal – flashlight in his hand didn’t make contact with the teen, but he said it was not intentional if it did.
“I told them if it made contact there was no deliberate act,” McDuffie said. “It just happened to be in my hand. I said, ‘What am I supposed to do when we’re in a fight? Am I supposed to run and put all my stuff away?’ ”
A review of his internal investigation file has him wondering why more witnesses weren’t interviewed and
what happened to recordings from several interviews.
According to the file obtained by The Chronicle, the recorder “for unknown reasons” stopped working five minutes and 17 seconds into McDuffie’s interview. During an interview with Payne, the recorder “malfunctioned” and the interview “could not be retrieved from the recorder.”
McDuffie said he is concerned that the investigators and sheriff ignored the threat the teen made against deputies. Sgt. Mark Chestang wrote in his statement that Kyvan’s mother said he had “some issues and has been in trouble before,” then said he believed she also said the teen
had trouble with authority.
However, one deputy and a neighbor told police they heard McDuffie threaten to break the teen’s neck if he didn’t stop moving.
Lt. Calvin Chew said Friday that there are always other options besides striking someone in the head, noting that the officer outweighed the teen by more than 100 pounds.
Roundtree said the decision to fire McDuffie was the right one.
“We firmly stand by our decision,” he said in response to McDuffie’s claims. “Our decision was upheld by the review board, so we have no plans to reconsider.”
Since his firing, the McDuffies have struggled financially as he looks for a job and works on his legal case. The loss of income has forced the family to drop their dental insurance and sell their pets and personal firearms. The family has been getting some help from the Augusta Warrior Project, family and the community.
“I’ve had deputies and people in the sheriff’s office pay my power bill,” he said.