Officer denies use of excessive force

A Richmond County school police officer said Tuesday that he did not use excessive force against a female student.

On Monday, Superintendent Dana Bedden released a letter of reprimand that criticized Officer David Barrios for pushing an Academy of Richmond County student into a wall after she had been handcuffed, driving her to the ground and later spraying pepper spray when she had begun to settle down.

But that's not what happened during the Aug. 30 incident, Officer Barrios said.

He agreed with part of the letter of reprimand that described him handcuffing the student after she instigated a fight and refused to leave campus.

According to the letter, the officer brought the student into administrative offices and used excessive force to get her under control, ignoring her complaints of pain and complaints from other students and a teacher.

They might have been "ear witnesses," but they couldn't have been eyewitnesses, Officer Barrios said, citing the tight quarters in the school's office area.

The commotion the witnesses heard was actually the student tripping him, causing both of them to fall to the ground, he said. The fall left the officer injured and out of work for two days with a severely sprained wrist.

Officer Barrios said he did not see the letter of reprimand until Tuesday and never had an opportunity to rebut any of the witnesses or allegations in it.

He said he plans to meet with the superintendent today to explain what happened. According to his reprimand, he will be suspended for 20 days without pay, reassigned and placed on probation for the rest of the year.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.