An Augusta man repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by a Georgia Regents University police officer filed suit Friday in U.S. District Court.
Named as defendants in Frederick Gibbons’ suit are GRU Officer Wesley Martin and the other officers involved in his 2012 arrest, Martin’s supervisors and the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents.
Martin, who testified that he has stunned about two dozen people in his 2½ years as a GRU officer, shot and wounded a man on campus last weekend, saying it was in self-defense.
According to Gibbons’ suit, Martin’s actions were in retaliation for a 2010 complaint Gibbons filed against him.
On Sept. 23, 2010, Martin stopped Gibbons, who was driving a vehicle with a dealer’s tag. Martin issued a citation but had another officer sign it. Gibbons initially refused to sign for the ticket, and Martin and Officer Zack Skinner arrested him. Gibbons alleges that Skinner put the cuffs on so tightly that his wrists bled.
Gibbons fought the charges in court. The charges were dismissed Dec. 1, 2010.
On March 1, 2012, Gibbons was on his way home when Martin pulled him over on Wrightsboro Road. A police video shows Gibbons – who was on his cellphone with a 911 dispatcher asking for a sheriff’s deputy to be sent to the scene – as Martin yells for him to get off the phone and out of the car. Martin then reached through Gibbons’ driver side window and stunned him.
“Because Martin pulled the trigger five times in rapid succession beyond reasonable and expected use of the product, the wires melted. When the taser wires burned and fell apart, the tasing stopped,” according to the lawsuit.
Martin charged Gibbons with felony obstruction of an officer, contending that Gibbons caused Martin to tase himself. On July 11, a Richmond County Superior Court jury acquitted Gibbons.
During the trial, Martin repeated what he had written in his report: that he had stopped Gibbons because there was no tag on his vehicle. Martin admitted lying after defense attorney Victor Hawk played a recording of Martin telling his dispatcher that he was pulling over a car with a paper tag.
The lawsuit alleges that GRU’s public safety leadership was deliberately indifferent to the fact that Martin had arrested Gibbons without cause in 2010. It also says Martin’s supervisors knew or should have known of his excessive use of the stun gun and of physical force.
Gibbons is seeking compensatory and punitive damages based on allegations of civil rights violations.
The university has 30 days to respond to the complaint.