Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Video raises questions about excessive tasered in vehicle

Dramatic video caught by a news crew is forcing local police to answer some tough questions about proper procedure. The actions of a police officer captured on video are under review by the District Attorney for Washington County. An NBC15 news crew was in McIntosh for a different story when they caught the scene on camera.

McIntosh Police say the chase started as a routine traffic stop and quickly accelerated when Ronald Lee Reed would not stop his truck. When the police caught up with Reed, Officer Blaine Barnett fired a taser into Reed's truck. Barnett then pulled Reed out, threw him to the ground, and punched him one time on the side of the head. The video also shows Barnett slamming Reed's face into the asphalt street three times.

NBC15 News spoke with Billy Lathan who was standing with us and also witnessed the arrest. "Down to the ground! He pushed him down to the ground and got down on him. I reckon they handcuffed him," said Lathan.

Reed didn't spend the night in jail, though. He walked away with two misdemeanor citations for reckless driving and possession of marijuana.
Officers searched Reed's truck, but according to a court clerk, the citation says only a "small amount of green substance (was found and) presumed to be marijuana."

So, why use of the taser, the punch and the suspect's head being slammed to the street when Reed was cited for minor offenses?

For more than a week, NBC15 News has been trying to get someone from the McIntosh Police to talk about the tape, to see if proper procedure was followed. The chief wouldn't talk. The chief's name is Michael Barnett... and he's Officer Blaine Barnett's father.

The District Attorney has also not returned any of our calls.

As for suspect Ronald Reed and his family, they told us they did not want to talk on camera. His parents say they'll wait until they have consulted an attorney first, but they too are concerned the force used against their son was excessive.

One other point over which there is some confusion concerns a question as to which agency Officer Barnett was working for at the time of Reed's arrest. The McIntosh Police chief says he was working for the drug task force, a division of the district attorney's office. But the task force says he had quit the day before the incident and was working as a McIntosh Police officer, where he continues to work.