Richmond County school officer fired after struggle

Former deputy struck student with his baton

A Richmond County school safety officer has been fired after he hit a female student at Murphey Middle School several times with a baton after grabbing her by the throat and pushing her into a cabinet, the school district said Friday.

Lillard was placed on paid administrative leave after the incident and was terminated after the investigation ended Wednesday.

It started about 3 p.m. Oct. 7 when Officer Deron Lillard went to the eighth-grade hallway because of "a disorder created by several students," the district's news release says.

Lillard entered a classroom and removed two male students. A female student "expressed an opinion of the situation and began to curse," the release said, and then Lillard said, "She's just stupid as hell."

After that, the officer asked the girl to leave the room. As the student walked past, Lillard saw she had a clenched fist. As she approached the door, Lillard "gave her a strong push in the back," the release said.

That, the release said, started a scuffle between the officer and student. She hit him, and he grabbed her by the throat, pushed her into a classroom cabinet, took out his baton and struck her with it, according to the release.

"Following the initial strikes, the student fell to the ground and the officer placed his hands and knee on the back, neck and head of the student in order to restrain her," the release said. "Shortly thereafter, the assistant principal arrived and removed the student from the area."

During the investigation, the administration determined that Lillard's conduct "crossed the line from an acceptable reaction, escalated the events and used what was deemed as excessive force."

In its statement, the school district stressed that, "This was an isolated incident in which a School Safety Officer misused his authority in correcting the behavior of a student. Since School Safety Officers are fully licensed and fully armed police officers, there are high expectations that each officer will act in a calm, professional and appropriate manner at all times."

According to a biography posted on Murphey Middle's Web site, Lillard had been in law enforcement since 2002. He worked with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office from 2004 to 2008 and is an Army veteran. He started working with the school district in September 2009.

While Lillard was a deputy, he was shoved by a 17-year-old boy in June 2005. The Augusta Chronicle reported at the time that the teen was charged with two counts of obstruction of officers after he refused to provide his name to two deputies, one of whom was Lillard, patrolling his Webster Road neighborhood. Instead, the teen said he was "old enough."

He then forcefully pushed Lillard and tried to elbow him and Deputy Michael Wagner, The Chronicle reported.

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