A Georgia police officer was fired after he drove his patrol car into a fleeing suspect who was wanted for violating probation.
Taylor Saulters, a rookie with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department in Georgia, “used poor judgment in using his patrol vehicle as a means to apprehend a fleeing suspect,” a preliminary Internal Affairs investigation report obtained by Oxygen.com concluded.
“There are no facts that were uncovered that would have led to the justification for this level of use of force in this incident,” the report found. Saulters was fired on Saturday.
Saulters’ body camera captured him chasing down Timmy Patmon on Friday. Moments earlier, Saulters and his partner, Hunter Blackmon, were on patrol when they spotted Patmon, a news release by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department said.
Blackmon knew there was a warrant out for Patmon’s arrest for a felony probation violation, the news release said. After first verifying the warrant, the officers approached Patmon, but he fled. Blackmon pursued him on foot, while Saulters caught up in their patrol car.
Saulters’ body camera footage shows Blackmon running behind a swiftly fleeing Patmon on the sidewalk to Saulters’ left. Saulters accelerates the patrol car, passes Patmon. Then, driving across a lane of oncoming traffic, Saulters drives up onto the sidewalk, blocking Patmon’s path.
But Patmon runs out into the street, around Saulters’ stopped police car on the right, and comes into view on the passenger side of Saulters’ patrol car. That’s when Saulters hits the accelerator, driving his police car off the sidewalk, out into the street, and into Patmon from the side.
The body camera footage clearly shows Saulters spinning the steering wheel of his police car to the right and driving the car intentionally into Patmon, who, after being struck by the front right fender, flies up onto the hood briefly before falling to the ground beside the police car.
“We got him,” the video captured Saulters saying to his partner, who by then had caught up and was handcuffing Patmon on the ground.
As Saulters and Blackmon cuff Patmon, the video shows a crowd gathering. A woman shouts “Why you hit that man with that car like that?!”
Patmon was taken to the hospital and treated for “scrapes and bruises,” according to the Athens-Clarke County Police Department. He was then “turned over to the Clarke County jail” and charged with violating probation and obstructing a law enforcement officer, the statement said.
As of Monday, Patmon remains detained, according to jail records.
Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Scott Freeman initially placed Saunters on administrative leave, police said in a statement obtained by Oxygen.com. Then, on Saturday, after reviewing the body camera footage and considering “all the other facts and circumstances of the case,” Freeman fired Saulters.
Crucially, the preliminary Internal Affairs report said that if Saulters acted as he did because he knew that Patmon “committed an offense that would have warranted the use of deadly force,” such as a crime involving a deadly weapon, the result might have been different, and Saulters may have kept his job. But in this instance, Saulters didn't know what the underlying charge was, and it wasn't one that could have justified deadly force.
According to the report, it turned out that the charge was for posession of meth and marijuana, not a violent crime, or one involving use or possession of a weapon.
Efforts to reach Saulters and his father, a captain in the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, were not successful.
Patmon’s mother, Tammy Brown-Patmon, responded to Saulters’ firing by saying "I am relieved that he fired. Justice was served,” said said, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
[Photo: Screenshot, Athens-Clarke County Police Department]