Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz says he will not tolerate conduct by university employees that has the potential to harm others, calling campus safety his highest priority in an e-mail to faculty, staffers and students Sunday.
The e-mail was made in response to an investigative story by The Augusta Chronicle about allegations of abuse of power by the university’s public safety department, particularly incidents involving GRU Public Safety Officer Wesley Martin.
Azziz, who sent the e-mail the day the story was published in The Chronicle, said he will work to ensure unbiased policing on the school’s campuses.
“I am also committed to ensuring that encounters involving our Public Safety officers are conducted with professionalism and fairness to everyone,” he said.
The Chronicle began its investigation after the July 11, 2013, acquittal of Fredrick Gibbons, whom Martin repeatedly stunned during a traffic stop. During the trial, Martin admitted that he lied about his reason for stopping Gibbons when he filed his police report, when interviewed by the officer assigned to investigate Gibbons’ complaint against Martin and when he testified before the jury.
Since the trial, Martin has been involved in two incidents in which he has drawn and fired his .40-caliber Glock, most recently in an incident at University Village.
On Feb. 22, he fired 10 shots at GRU student Donte Stewart. In a GRU police report, Martin, who used his patrol car to block an entrance while officers responded to a noise complaint, said he shot at Stewart’s car because he believed the student was trying to hit him and his position prevented him from moving out of harm’s way.
Through use-of-force documents gathered by The Chronicle, it was learned that Martin had used his stun gun against 13 people in three years, more than twice as often as any other GRU officer.
“The February shooting at University Village was unfortunate for everyone involved, and while we are eager for its resolution, we must allow for the conclusion of official investigations and judicial processes before passing judgment on the student or the officer involved in the incident,” Azziz wrote.
Azziz wrote that regardless of the outcome, the university will continue to examine its policies and procedures to ensure a safe campus environment.