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Reports show weapons use among Georgia Regents University Department of Public Safety's officers

Saturday, May 31, 2014 5:18 PM
Last updated Sunday, June 1, 2014 2:06 AM
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There’s an area of town that DaShaun McCord avoids if at all possible: Georgia Regents Uni­versity. He isn’t the only one.

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Donte Stewart was hit in the face by a bullet from the gun of Martin, who fired 10 shots during the February incident at University Village. Stewart, then a freshman criminal justice major, was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer. The 19-year-old has not been indicted.   JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Donte Stewart was hit in the face by a bullet from the gun of Martin, who fired 10 shots during the February incident at University Village. Stewart, then a freshman criminal justice major, was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer. The 19-year-old has not been indicted.
GRU Public Safety Officer Martin shoots at car driven by Keith James (body camera)
GRU Public Safety Officer Martin tases Austin Brown (Taser camera)
GRU Public Safety Officer Martin tases Frederick Gibbons (Taser camera)
GRU Public Safety Officer Martin tases Frederick Gibbons (body camera)


“Every time they see a black boy in a car they pull you over,” McCord said.

The last time he was at 15th Street and Central Avenue near the Health Sciences campus, McCord was riding with a friend who was pulled over by GRU Public Safe­ty Officer Wes­ley Martin for not having a tag light. Martin told McCord he was under arrest for an outstanding warrant from South Caro­lina.

McCord said that he knew there was no warrant and that when he didn’t put his hands on the back of Martin’s car as instructed, the officer used a stun gun on him without warning.

According to the use-of-force reports filed by Martin and Sgt. Zack Skinner, Mc­Cord ran and resisted arrest.

There was no outstanding warrant for McCord, but he was jailed on a charge of obstruction of an officer. McCord said he spent four hours in a holding cell at GRU before being taken to the county jail, where it was discovered he had bled through his shirt where the prongs of the stun gun hit him in the back.

He pleaded guilty that day without an attorney.

“I don’t even drive near (GRU) anymore,” McCord said.

McCord was one of 19 people threatened with a stun gun or actually stunned by Martin. An analysis of the department’s use-of-force reports over a three-year period from 2010 to 2013 reveals Martin used his stun gun against 13 people, more than twice as often as any other GRU officer. The officer with the next highest number of such incidents had five, and the median number was two.

VIEW DATABASE: Georgia Regents University Police Officer Use Of Force Databases and Map

Only six of GRU’s 56 officers used force against suspects more than nine times. Martin topped that list with 24 incidents. The list also included three supervisory officers.

The Augusta Chronicle began an investigation of the GRU public safety department’s use of force and arrests after the July 11, 2013, acquittal of Fredrick Gib­bons, whom Martin repeatedly stunned during a traffic stop. The investigation covers the time span when the university was called Medical College of Georgia and then Georgia Health Sciences University. Augusta State University and GHSU merged in 2013 to become GRU.

During Gibbons’ trial for felony obstruction of an officer, Martin admitted during cross-examination that he lied about his reason for stopping Gibbons on March 1, 2012, when he filled out his police report, when interviewed by the officer assigned to investigate Gib­bons’ complaint against Martin, and when he testified before the jury.

District Attorney Ashley Wright said she hasn’t had the opportunity to review Martin’s testimony. In general, she said, a perjury prosecution is difficult because you have to prove the person had the intent to mislead others and knew what he said was a lie, instead of just being mistaken about a fact.

Martin testified that he warned Gibbons about using the stun gun if he didn’t cooperate, but there was no warning heard on the video recording from Martin’s body camera, a violation of the department’s policy.

Gibbons, a small businessman with a clean record and a family, rejected a plea deal of probation and risked a possible five-year sentence and felony conviction. He did it, Gibbons said after his trial, because too many people are being abused by GRU officers. He wanted the university to investigate its public safety department.

But GRU didn’t.

Martin wasn’t disciplined over Gibbons’ arrest or for any use of force, according to personnel records obtained by The Chron­icle. Of those officers who have used force the most, none was ever disciplined, though one was told not to hit any more hospital patients in restraints, according to the personnel records.

Through a spokeswoman, Chief Bill McBride said after the Gibbons trial that the matter was closed. Repeated requests to interview McBride for this story were denied because of a pending investigation of another of Martin’s arrests in which he shot someone with a .40-caliber Glock.

Stewart and James

The shooting of Donte Stew­art on Feb. 22 wasn’t the first time Martin fired at someone with his handgun. On Nov. 2, Martin shot at Keith James during a traffic stop but didn’t wound him. On both occasions Martin reported the suspects tried to run him over. Both men were charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, a crime punishable by 20 years in prison.

James has pleaded not guilty. Stewart has not been indicted.

Stewart, who spent more than two weeks in the hospital and still suffers from numbness in his face, said he was leaving University Vil­lage when he saw Martin in a shooting stance in front of his vehicle, blocking the apartment’s entrance and exit lanes. Martin and other officers were responding to a noise complaint.

Stewart said he stopped and thought Martin was going to come to his car to speak to him. Instead, Stewart said, Martin started shooting.

“Once I got shot, I was trying to get out of there. I panicked,” Stewart said. He crashed into a tree just outside the complex. Martin and other GRU officers reported that Stewart got out of his vehicle and ran.

“I got out and started crawling,” Stewart said. He remembers watching as blood pooled on the ground below his face.

According to the physical evidence, Martin fired 10 shots at Stewart. The shot directly through the windshield hit Stewart’s face after glancing off his hand that had been on the steering wheel.

Stewart, a GRU freshman majoring in criminal justice, chose the field because his goal is to have a career as an Army officer. He got a late start on college because he joined the National Guard after graduating from the Aca­demy of Richmond Coun­ty in the college prep program. He intends to return to school.

“I’m coming back; there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I’m coming back more mature … And I’m not going to bash the whole thing. You know there are a few bad seeds, so I’m not going to say the whole GRU police (department) or Richmond County (sheriff’s office) is bad.”

The district attorney has an open file on Stewart’s case, Wright said. It is being reviewed for possible indictment.

Policy and procedure

GRU’s use-of-force policy states that deadly force should be used only when an officer believes his life or the lives of others are in immediate danger. The stun gun can be used when other options have failed, or when a suspect is actively resisting or not complying with commands and showing willingness and ability to harm the officer or others.

In a GRU police report, Martin said he shot at Stew­art’s car because his position prevented him from moving out of harm’s way.

“Generally, the idea is if you have time to shoot, you have time to get out of the way,” said Lorie Fridell, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida who researches use of force and biased policing. “That is the state of the art on policies: to get out of the way.”

Fridell said the use of stun guns is particularly tricky because departments need to detail exactly when and where they can be used.

“Policies should balance the positive aspects of Tasers against the harm and the unknown,” she said.

Fridell said there are varying degrees of resistance: passive, defensive and active. Passive resistance, she said, is generally defined as someone who is not obeying an officer but is not physically resisting. A person is using defensive resistance when physical with an officer, but in an attempt to thwart police intervention without harming the officer.

Active resistance would be physical resistance where the person is trying to harm the officer, Fridell said.

Martin testified during Gibbons’ trial that most of his stun-gun use was against unruly psychiatric patients at the hospital. Records, however, revealed that only four of 19 incidents were against hospital patients.

Most of Martin’s stun-gun incidents began with traffic stops off campus. The working jurisdiction of GRU public safety officers is generally within 1,000 feet of university property, said Christen Carter, Georgia Regents’ director of media relations. The officers also are sworn deputies of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, however, and can write citations, make arrests and enforce county ordinances outside of their working jurisdiction, she said.

Richmond County sheriff’s Sgt. Shane McDaniel said GRU officers tend to stick close to the university. However, with campuses stretching from Wrightsboro Road to Walton Way to Reynolds Street, GRU officers have authority to conduct stops when they spot infractions while traveling from one campus to another. At that point, McDaniel said, the officers can issue a citation or allow the sheriff’s office to take over.

One such traffic stop off campus grounds involving Mar­tin occurred Feb. 23, 2012.

Martin said he pursued Charles Bostic that night after clocking him at 67 mph on Wrightsboro Road. Martin reported that Bostic wouldn’t stop for blue lights and siren, and a chase ensued through the Hill area until Bostic crashed the stolen vehicle he was driving on Central Ave­nue and, according to Martin, tried to escape on foot until Martin stunned him twice.

Bostic could have faced serious prison time for the slew of charges compounded with his criminal history, but charges were reduced and the prosecutor recommended a two-year sentence.

In the incident with James on Nov. 2, Martin said he spotted the 2006 Volkswagen Passat traveling at twice the speed limit on Wrightsboro Road, but the video shows the officer never topped 45 mph in the pursuit and reached the stopped car at the Walton Way intersection.

Martin doesn’t explain in the report why he needed to pull his weapon to write a speeding ticket. He wrote that the driver refused to turn off his vehicle and ran over his foot in an attempt to hit him before Martin started shooting. The video shows Mar­tin moving toward the vehicle. He is near the driver’s door when the shooting begins.

A question of discrimination

A video recorded another incident involving Martin, one that eventually resulted in a jury’s acquitting the man he stunned.

Austin Brown was with others taking a friend to the emergency room on Sept. 9, 2011. In Martin’s report, he contends he was confronted by a hostile crowd of black men after telling them they couldn’t enter through the ambulance bay.

Martin said his back was to a wall when Brown, whom he charged with obstruction of an officer, and others moved threateningly toward him. According to the recording from the stun gun, Martin shot Brown twice.

“You gonna act right now? I’m asking you a question,” Martin said after the second firing, which he later described as a “ride.”

Brown said he felt Martin was taunting him. He refused a plea offer and stood trial, where a jury acquitted him.

Brown is black, as are Gib­bons, Bostic and McCord. According to the department’s records, GRU officers used force against 111 known blacks and 36 known whites. Mar­tin used force against 18 known blacks and four whites.

Fridell said a disparity between force used against blacks versus whites is fairly consistent throughout the country.

“Police use of force against minorities could reflect the disproportionate involvement of minorities in crime and in situations where they resist the police,” she said. “The stats you have don’t tell you whether the use of force is based on differential behavior on the part of those groups or police bias. It could be some combination. But, as a social scientist, I can tell you it’s very difficult to parse the potential causes of disparity out.”

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nocnoc
53920
Points
nocnoc 05/31/14 - 04:59 pm
11
1
I strongly support all LEO's acting within their legal scope.

However,
I and likely many others have come to look on Badge holder Martin, as a person with a personality not fit to be a LEO, and a badge holder with documented testimony and credibility problems.

Since the local DA is unable to bring charges, I would ask that the State Attorney General conduct a long overdue review using the GBI.

Before we have the a fight on the court house steps between a bunch of Reverends each wanting 1st position and the $$$$ & frame that comes with it such Media antics.

Besides such a Federal Investigation would further hurt GRU/MCH enrollment problems.

Little Lamb
50764
Points
Little Lamb 05/31/14 - 04:54 pm
10
1
Discipline

From the story:

Grooo public safety officer Wesley Martin wasn’t disciplined over Fredrick Gibbons’ [non-valid] arrest or for any use of force, according to personnel records obtained by The Chron­icle. Of those officers who have used force the most, none was ever disciplined.

Grooo had better get Martin off the force before something else blows up in Grooo's face.

nocnoc
53920
Points
nocnoc 05/31/14 - 05:09 pm
6
1
Regarding the raitos of arrests

Look at the GRU location to Cherry Tree and the surrounding problem areas.

"...used force against 111 known blacks and 36 known whites. "
The racial makeup for the area is likely 80+% black. So naturally the arrest in such a population will lean towards the higher racial percentage makeup correct.

HOWEVER,
While Badge Hold Martin accounted for more that 18% of the total forced arrests over all.

I am MORE curious of the break down per officer compared to Badge holder Martin's.

Is Badge Holder Martin numbers 3, 5, 7+x and many force involved arrests as other LEO's at GRU?

nocnoc
53920
Points
nocnoc 05/31/14 - 05:11 pm
11
0
Sandy Hodson and Travis Highfield

Good article and well documented.

IBeDogGone
3015
Points
IBeDogGone 05/31/14 - 05:19 pm
8
2
AZZIZ NEW DRIVER

Martin should be promoted to the position of personal driver for Azziz. It is crazy that this officer is still on the force. I hope they have enough liability insurance to cover the damages he is likely to have against him if he is allowed to continue as an officer

Riverman1
99356
Points
Riverman1 05/31/14 - 05:32 pm
11
1
Martin Is Seriously Dangerous

It's time this whole matter was examined. There are two issues...Martin's absurd behavior including shooting the student when responding to a noise complaint. Plus, the overriding stench that Chief Bill McBride has not done anything. I propose Sgt. McDaniel, the Internal Affairs Officer for Richmond County, investigate Martin and the GRU Department. Some outside agency has to become involved. By the way, where is Azziz? He should be involved to the max. He is shirking his responsibility.

Little Lamb
50764
Points
Little Lamb 05/31/14 - 05:36 pm
9
1
Azziz

We hear only crickets from Azziz.

Sweet son
12163
Points
Sweet son 05/31/14 - 05:50 pm
9
1
Bottom line is:

Martin and McBride both should have been long gone months or even years ago. It makes you wonder what kind of and advice is being given? The University probably has at least two attorneys on starr and they too should be telling Azziz to get rid of these two. Crimes like Martin has committed should be prosecuted and McBride should be fired because he has taken no action on very serious cases. I'm sure there is plenty of insurance but the taxpayers should not be paying for criminal defense attorneys and eventually lawyers to protect us in civil suits. Not the suing type but I would have at civilly suing the institution and both of these yokels!

Sweet son
12163
Points
Sweet son 05/31/14 - 05:56 pm
8
0
@Riverman1

Since the GRU officers are deputized as Richmond County deputies a Richmond County investigation would be like investigating yourself. The GBI would be the first stop for this type of investigation to start. It also seems that the FBI might be called in after for possible civil rights violations.

just an opinion
3054
Points
just an opinion 05/31/14 - 08:14 pm
10
1
Chief Bill McBride...

If you need a "spokeswoman" you are not capable of handling this job. Why are you standing behind this PUNK! Wesley Martin? Of course Wesley Martin is going to lose his job and probably his certification but I'm surprised you are going to risk your position over it. You have watched the video right? Where Wesley Martin said he "didn't give a f..." that the guy said he was having chest pains after being tased 5 times. Did you watch the one attached to this article where Wesley Martin said the guy tried to run him over? You are aware that Wesley Martin admitted to lying under oath right? Exactly what do you have to do to lose your job?

gargoyle
22292
Points
gargoyle 05/31/14 - 06:06 pm
9
1
A unelected non beholding to

A unelected non beholding to the public Police Chief with a private force with arrest powers what can go wrong ? Way too many agencies with powers need reigned in . I'm not comfortable traveling the medical district with those cowboys patrolling, they seem to have chip on their shoulders, a bad attitude and a agenda

The Mick
833
Points
The Mick 05/31/14 - 06:55 pm
10
1
God bless law enforcement

God bless law enforcement first and foremost. But they are a social cross section and have bums to! Martin is a BUM and a coward. Watch the video above where he fires at the car. He got out gun drawn. Reverse lights were not on officer so he wasn't going to "run you over". You approach the driver mad the video shows you are far enough away even your toes couldn't get run over! Just get out of police work. You're chicken s#%+ and want to shoot somebody due to some twisted hero fantasy.

itsanotherday1
50031
Points
itsanotherday1 05/31/14 - 07:29 pm
8
1
The Green Mile

When I think of Martin, I envision Percy; that greasy little twerp character in The Green Mile.

Bizkit
37236
Points
Bizkit 05/31/14 - 08:11 pm
7
1
That fool Martin is going to

That fool Martin is going to kill some person with a heart condition or pacemaker-the odds around a medical center are good.

corgimom
41319
Points
corgimom 05/31/14 - 09:12 pm
5
5
In my opinion, GRU isn't

In my opinion, GRU isn't doing anything about Wesley Martin, because Wesley Martin is doing exactly what his superiors at GRU have told him to do.

Nothing else makes sense.

Over the years, GRU has had a lot of crimes, with most of them being hushed up. I worked at GRU for a short time, and it was made clear to me that it was not safe and that I should be alert at all times.

I believe that the GRU officers have been instructed to be very "proactive", and that GRU WANTS people to avoid it- unless you work there or have legitimate business there.

Little Lamb
50764
Points
Little Lamb 05/31/14 - 09:25 pm
3
1
You may be wrong,

but you may be right, Corgimom. Your opinion has some merit.

like-it-is
369
Points
like-it-is 05/31/14 - 09:27 pm
2
1
I Agree

With every one comments. Old Mcbride and Martin got to Go!

like-it-is
369
Points
like-it-is 05/31/14 - 09:27 pm
1
1
I Agree

With every one comments. Old Mcbride and Martin got to Go!

specsta
7526
Points
specsta 05/31/14 - 09:57 pm
4
4
This Is What Happens When You Give Barney Fife Too Much Power

"The officers also are sworn deputies of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, however, and can write citations, make arrests and enforce county ordinances outside of their working jurisdiction, she said."

This is the problem. The current Sheriff made a very poor decision to allow this. How can you give someone who is basically a mall security guard the authority to act as a police officer, with guns and bullets? I see these GRU folks driving all over the place, not just around the campuses, pulling folks over. They have gotten too big for their britches.

The actions of Martin are despicable. He needs to be put in jail for his abuses of power.

kellilewis816
23
Points
kellilewis816 05/31/14 - 11:10 pm
5
1
Just to clarify GRU officers,

Just to clarify GRU officers, formerly MCG police, were already sworn officers within the sheriff's dept before Roundtree. Unfortunately, they aren't just mall cops with badge and guns, it pile be easier to justify their behavior then. They are actual police officers that have been through academy and are POST certified.

Note: Edited by admin to remove automatic profanity filter on the abbreviation POST.

gargoyle
22292
Points
gargoyle 06/01/14 - 12:10 am
4
2
Do they answer to Sheriff

Do they answer to Sheriff Roundtree ? If no then they are a private security force.

Grandpa Jones
1355
Points
Grandpa Jones 06/01/14 - 01:08 am
4
1
AZZIZ NEW DRIVER

He probably needs a new driver. I saw where Azziz was involved in a wreck about two weeks ago at the intersection of Pickens and Johns Road. No one appeared to be hurt .... just a side-swiped between a black, luxury SUV and a white Volvo. Azziz and two women were giving statements to a deputy.

Deacallion
23
Points
Deacallion 06/01/14 - 04:04 am
3
4
Lacking information

You would think that with the amount of time and effort they put into compiling this article that they wouldn't lack relevant information. But, alas, they do. I wonder why McCord pleaded "guilty" if he believed he was innocent? Why don't we have body camera footage from that incident? I know why, the media wanted to skew the perspective on someone they felt was a "victim". He admitted that he didn't follow a Law Enforcement Officer's commands. I wonder if the video would have shown him resisting? Will the Richmond County Sheriff's Office have a use of force breakdown like this since one of the men they Tased died? I think those numbers will be staggering compared to GRU.

geecheeriverman
6487
Points
geecheeriverman 06/01/14 - 05:12 am
4
2
Not employable

A good many of these LEO's on small city police dept's, and places such as GRU and RCBOE would not be hired by larger agency's, because they are not really qualified for this type of work. Lots of these small dept's will hire an officer that has been suspended or fired from a larger dept because of the smaller budgets in these smaller depts, hence they pay less. Anyone with a POAG certification can get a job in police work anywhere in Georgia, whether or not he is actually qualified.

Riverman1
99356
Points
Riverman1 06/01/14 - 05:46 am
5
1
Tasing Psychiatric Patients

Let me get this right. They have been ROUTINELY tasing psychiatric patients?

corgimom
41319
Points
corgimom 06/01/14 - 06:06 am
3
6
Riverman, I'm sure they have.

Riverman, I'm sure they have.

How else would you subdue somebody that is having a psychotic break and violent?

I don't think they do it as a matter of course, but I can easily see them doing that.

People who are psychotic and violent have superhuman strength and don't feel pain and don't respond to normal commands.

myfather15
58535
Points
myfather15 06/01/14 - 06:33 am
4
4
Corgimom is absolutely correct!!

If you've ever had to struggle with a psychiatric patient, you would understand just how strong they are and how hard they fight!! It's a nightmare for any LE officer to fight with psychiatric patients; very dangerous.

myfather15
58535
Points
myfather15 06/01/14 - 06:42 am
7
0
But something is definately wrong here!!

"You are aware that Wesley Martin admitted to lying under oath right? Exactly what do you have to do to lose your job?"

This is my biggest question as well!! This man admitted lying on a police incident report? And they still have him employed? A couple years ago, a Richmond County deputy admitted to falsifying alco-sensor readings (Field Sobriety test, not Official State test) and he was terminated for this, which is the right thing to do!!

When an officer destroys his on credibility, I just can't see how you still employee him!! This is something that can come into EVERY case he makes now!! A good attorney will have an easier time bringing reasonable doubt into future cases involving Martin!! If you lied about probable cause, what else will you lie about in an incident report?

Martin absolutely sounds like a troubled individual!! Matter of fact, I was also thinking of "Percy" from the Green Mile!! This guy sounds like a loose cannon; and as many of you know, I'm not quick to judgment on other officers. I've often said, if you or me weren't there; we don't actually know what happened!! It's not like suspects and offender's are always known to tell the whole truth either!! That is the sad world we live in; one where you can't believe EITHER side 100%!!

A quote that I often use on duty is "There are always three sides to every story; one side, the other side and then there is the truth." The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle; because there are usually parts of the incident that BOTH sides don't want us to discover!!

But I agree; something must be done about this particular officer!!

Navy Gary
1615
Points
Navy Gary 06/01/14 - 06:58 am
6
3
It's time to realize

It's time to realize that there are thousands of these "little Hitlers" running around terrorizing peoples' lives in the name of the law.

Riverman1
99356
Points
Riverman1 06/01/14 - 07:48 am
4
1
Psychiatric Patients Being Tased

Myfather, I'll guess you deal with lots more tougher characters than Martin. Does the number of times he used his taser surprise you?

As far as tasing psychiatric patients I didn't say there are no cases where it shouldn't be done. But if someone is in a hospital setting for a psychiatric problem, I'd hope the hospital has procedures for dealing with unruly patients without tasing. Plus, Martin was even hitting hospital patients who were in restraints. Give me a break.

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