Originally created 06/30/00

Residents seek action for alleged violence



Amid allegations of police misconduct, the people of Rosignal Hill plan to file a formal complaint against officers involved in a Saturday night fracas in Garden City.

At a news conference Wednesday in the front yard of family members who claim they were threatened, about 30 neighbors and relatives gathered to express their outrage against the Garden City Police Department.

The residents had not filed a formal complaint about any of their allegations, including use of excessive force and unwarranted arrests. But they will before the end of the week, said the Rev. Leonard Smalls, who was asked to speak for the group.

"We'll be calling for the resignation or removal of one or more officers," he said.

The problems started Saturday about 9 p.m., when four officers tried to make an arrest in a robbery. The suspect, Steven R. Duncan, 28, resisted.

After struggling with Mr. Duncan, who allegedly bit and punched officers and tried to break one officer's leg, police finally got him under control using their batons, mace and hands. Five officers were injured in the struggle.

Community members claim that even after Mr. Duncan was handcuffed officers continued to hit him in the head and use a stun-gun on him.

But Garden City police Chief Jeff Wood said the officers followed their use of force policies correctly and showed restraint by not shooting Mr. Duncan.

The Rev. Smalls said there are witnesses to the alleged use of excessive force by the police but would not release their names until the witnesses talk to investigators.

"They were appalled by what happened after he was secured, while he was laying in the ditch for 30 minutes," the Rev. Smalls said. "For all the charges they gave that young man, I'm not sure we're not having another Rodney King."

Mr. Duncan has filed no complaints against the officers in the arrest.

The problems in Rosignal Hill continued to fester even after Mr. Duncan was arrested, when police allege people in the street began throwing rocks and bricks at them and an ambulance.

Four people were arrested for inciting to riot, but many in the community say they believe the arrests were unwarranted.

"I saw a man get arrested 75 yards away for standing on his porch," said Melvin Pinckney, who lives two blocks away from where the incident occurred.

Although the residents admit the young men arrested were cursing at the officers - who, they add, were cursing back - they said none of them was even near the crime scene.

In addition to the arrests, the Anthony family said Garden City Sgt. Wayne Daniels threatened to shoot them if they didn't go inside their home.

"He came up like a wild man," Eugene Anthony said. "I feel like me and my family were treated poorly."

But Chief Wood said he's never had any problems with Sgt. Daniels regarding violent behavior.

"No one from that area has ever filed a complaint against him for misconduct," Chief Wood said.

Sgt. Daniels, who has been with the department for about 10 years, has been reprimanded in the past for wrecking his police car twice in several months, Chief Wood said. He was given a five-day suspension for those incidents.

"We don't try to protect our officers if it's proven they've done wrong," Chief Wood said. "All he did was back up officers that were in danger of being hurt."

The Rev. Smalls said there is video footage of improper actions by the officers, but it will not be released until the community has a chance to meet with Garden City officials.

"This type of policing will not be tolerated in this neighborhood," the Rev. Smalls said. "They wouldn't do it in Windsor Forest. They wouldn't do it on Wilmington Island. And they won't do it here."

As the Rev. Smalls finished those words, the crowd, which had been quiet throughout the news conference, burst into applause.

"This is a mess, and we're gonna fix it," the Rev. Smalls said. "We want to make sure our community is represented in this."

The inquiry the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in to conduct an independent investigation into the incident in Rosignal Hill Saturday night. On Wednesday, two GBI agents spent the day interviewing Garden City officers involved.

The Mr. Duncan has been charged with obstruction of officers; terroristic threats; aggravated assault and robbery. He is being held in the Chatham County jail.