SANDERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Three former sheriff's deputies in Georgia could face charges in the July stun gun death of a 58-year-old man.
Middle Georgia Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman said Friday he will present charges to a grand jury Dec. 19 against former Washington County deputies Henry L. Copeland, Rhett Scott and Michael Howell.
Altman, at a press conference, said he decided to present to a grand jury after a review of the case based on the facts. "Not rumors. Not innuendos, but the actual facts," he said.
"They will be sentenced for criminal indictment for the offenses of felony murder," Altman said. "They will be considered for the indictment of involuntary manslaughter, for the offense of false imprisonment, for the offense of aggravated assault, for the offense of simple battery and for the offense of reckless conduct."
Multiple media outlets report the deputies were fired Thursday. They had been on administrative leave with pay pending a probe by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into the death of Eurie Lee Martin of Milledgeville. Martin collapsed after being shocked multiple times by deputies.
Sheriff Thomas Smith said the deputies didn't follow correct procedures on use of force. They were responding to a call about a suspicious person when they came across Martin, who relatives said was not suspicious, but walking from his home in Milledgeville to see family in Sandersville.
Altman said based on the autopsy, Martin died from a heart attack based on homicide.
"We're a number of steps away, but this first step is one that we've seen so often be missed and not accomplished," said Mawuli Mel Davis, an attorney for the family. "So this first step, gives us some encouragement."
Davis and Francys Johnson, another attorney, said they were pleased to see the district attorney seek justice for Martin.
"He was just taking a walk and was actually headed to see his family. That is scary when you are going to see someone you love, you set out on a walk and you end up having to be buried," Davis said.
Johnson added, "We think that any person looking at this will come away with the same conclusion the district attorney has come away with, that there has been serious crimes committed. These deputies and others contributed and are responsible for the wrongful death of Eurie Lee Martin."
The Martin family hasn't filed a civil lawsuit but it's in the plan. He also stated this isn't a matter of race, although all three deputies are white and Martin was black.