File details alleged excessive force incident involving ex-Houston deputy

wcrenshaw@macon.comJune 22, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- When the call came over the radio in the early morning hours of May 17 concerning suspicious activity on Alexander Drive, Houston County deputies already had a good idea what was happening and for whom they were looking.

Patrick Asselin, 47, had “lost his mind” over a woman who lived on the street, in the words of one deputy. Going back to December, there were 11 other incidents in the same area for stalking, and there was a court order for Asselin to stay away.

For Sgt. Kenneth Beck, it was apparently one call too many. Events following Asselin’s capture led to Beck’s resignation, and he could face criminal charges.

The sheriff’s department issued a news release May 28 stating that Beck resigned following allegations of excessive use of force, but provided no other details. The investigation has been turned over to the GBI, which has also declined to comment.

However, in response to an open records request by The Telegraph, the sheriff’s department released documents last week from its internal investigation. It concludes that Beck struck Asselin once in the midsection after Asselin was handcuffed, that Beck cursed him and that Beck tried to get other deputies to be “untruthful” about the incident.

It also found no evidence to support Asselin’s allegations that Beck slammed his face into the pavement and kicked him three times. Asselin had scratches on his face and arms, but deputies said that was from the chase in the woods. The deputy who caught Asselin also had scratches and blood on his arms.

The file includes a letter from Sheriff Cullen Talton to Beck informing him that he was being fired for conduct unbecoming an officer and willful mistreatment of a prisoner, although a handwritten note at the bottom indicates Beck resigned before the letter was delivered.

Beck did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Investigation details incident

When The Telegraph initially requested the investigative file, County Attorney Mike Long wrote in an email that the internal investigation was not completed because Beck resigned. However, the released file appeared to have nothing lacking.

It included written statements from all the deputies involved, videos of interviews of the deputies and Asselin, and a detailed summary of the findings. It also included patrol car videos requested by The Telegraph, but none captured the incident. Because the deputies were scattered in a foot search, the cars were all around the area and none of the cameras were pointed where the capture was made.

However, audio of Deputy Deryl Collins, who captured Asselin after a chase through a wooded area, provided a key piece of evidence. Beck can be heard cursing Asselin, then he says “turn it off.” Collins told the investigator, Lt. David Carrick, that he was worried Beck’s cursing wouldn’t look good when the case went to court, so he motioned toward his recorder, signaling that it was on, and that’s when Beck told him to turn it off. Collins did, and the audio goes silent. At about that time, Deputy Daniel Watkins arrives on the scene.

“I get out of my car, and I hear Beck. He’s yelling at the guy,” Watkins told Carrick. “That’s when Beck tells him, ‘I told you I was going to make you pay if I caught you,’ and then he punches him right in the stomach. Beck looked up, and I could tell by the look on his face he knew he had made a mistake.”

Watkins said Beck later told him he was on steroids for a medical issue, and it was causing him to have trouble with his temper.

Beck admitted to the investigator that he struck Asselin, although he said he only did it because as he tried to pick Asselin up, the man “went limp” and fell across Beck’s left leg onto his foot. Beck said he gave him a “jab” in his side to get him off his foot.

Collins also said he saw the hit, but he did not describe it as a hard hit.

“He popped the guy, not as in he beat him, not as in struck him or hit him or anything to that effect as we would think of it,” he said.

Collins and Watkins said they did not see Asselin fall across Beck’s leg or pin his foot.

Collins said Beck asked him that if questioned about it, to say he was referring to Asselin’s cellphone when he said “turn it off.” Watkins said Beck told him to say he didn’t see anything.

Following the incident, Watkins and Collins were concerned that Asselin was threatening a lawsuit and saying he had been beaten during his arrest, which is what Asselin told a judge in his first court appearance. Asselin remains in the Houston County jail on aggravated stalking charges.

Watkins and Collins said they tried to get Beck to come forward and tell what happened, but Beck refused. At that point, Watkins reported the incident, and the investigation began.

“He didn’t beat anybody,” Watkins told Carrick. “It was a mistake. That’s what frustrates me the most. It was a simple mistake that could have been headed off at the pass.”

Rodney Wall, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Perry office, said Friday he hopes the investigation will be finished in a few weeks. It will then be turned over to the district attorney, who will determine whether charges should be filed.

The internal investigation summary stated there was no record in Beck’s personnel file of any previous incidents involving “mistreatment of a prisoner, excessive use of force, being untruthful during an investigation or other offices related to violations of his oath of office.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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