Posted: July 9th, 2009 by Militant Libertarian
A Waffle House employee is suing the Gwinnett County Police Department over what he says was an unprovoked encounter with an officer who stunned him with a Taser.
The department’s internal investigation records reveal that the officer used the weapon like a toy with tacit approval from two superior officers.
Daniel Wilson, the 22-year-old waiter, spoke publicly about the encounter Wednesday at his attorney’s office in Snellville. The incident has already resulted in the arrest of Cpl. Gary Miles, 33, and the resignations of Sgt. Christopher Parry and Sgt. Joey Parkerson. None of the officers could be reached for comment this week because their phone numbers are unlisted.
Wilson said all three officers were regular customers at the Waffle House at 2725 Grayson Highway in Loganville.
He said the restaurant provided police with free food.
Wilson said the officers often pointed the red laser from their Taser at him playfully. They would do so when Wilson picked a song they didn’t like on the jukebox or when telling him not to mess up their order, Wilson said.
“It was uncomfortable, but they are my customers and they tip pretty well,” Wilson said. “I just thought they were being foolish.”
Then on Feb. 16, Wilson was chatting with Parry and Parkerson when Miles sidled up behind him. Without saying a word, Miles zapped him with the Taser, Wilson said.
“I remember feeling the pulse go through my body,” Wilson said. “It hurt.”
Taser stun guns deliver a 50,000-volt electrical current capable of incapacitating a person. The weapon can fire barbed probes a distance of up to 35 feet, or it can be used in “drive stun mode” when pressed directly against a suspect. Gwinnett police checked the data recording from Miles’ Taser and found it was fired for one second at 2:48 a.m. on Feb. 16.
Miles told investigators that he only “spark tested” the Taser near the employee’s back “just to scare him a little bit,” according to the internal investigation file.
Parry, 41, and Parkerson, 39, witnessed the employee being shocked but did not report it. They laughed along with Miles, Wilson said. The sergeants later told investigators they didn’t realize the Taser made contact with Wilson’s body.
Wilson said he remembers telling Miles in the presence of the other officers, “Hey, you actually tased me.”
Wilson again sought an apology from Miles a few days later for accidentally stunning him. He said Miles replied, “Who says I did it by accident?”
Miles was arrested June 18 on charges of misdemeanor battery and violating his oath as an officer. Parry and Parkerson resigned in lieu of termination June 19. Police are also investigating allegations that a fourth officer pointed a Taser at Wilson’s groin during an earlier incident.
Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said he has not ruled out the possibility of charging the two sergeants.
“If the evidence shows there was an unprovoked use of the Taser, and if the evidence shows the sergeants had some criminal responsibility in the case, then they can expect to be prosecuted vigorously,” Porter said.
Michael Puglise, who is representing Wilson in the lawsuit in Gwinnett County State Court, is seeking unspecified punitive damages. He also wants a judge to bar Gwinnett police from carrying Tasers until their policy and training is evaluated.
“What is so concerning to me is the fact that you have a corporal â€” a ranking officer â€” zapping a kid with a stun gun and you have two sergeants sitting there watching for their own amusement,” Puglise said. “From their expressions and their actions, it is obvious that this is accepted.”
Gwinnett’s Police Department has had stun guns longer than any other force from the Atlanta area’s largest counties. Currently, 222 of Gwinnett’s 715 sworn officers are certified to carry Tasers, said Cpl. Illana Spellman, a department spokeswoman.
Spellman said using a Taser on innocent civilians is not acceptable. It is also against department policy for officers to accept free food from restaurants.
“It is clearly stated in training that the Taser will only be used to defend the officer or someone else,” Spellman said. “[These officers] were completely wrong.”
Police departments across the state have adopted widely different policies about the use of stun guns. Recently, the director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police said the state needs to offer standardized training.
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