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DA to file murder charges against Washington County deputies

Hayward Altman, district attorney for the Middle Judicial Circuit, speaks at a news conference in this 2017 file photo. Altman announced that he would ask a grand jury to indict three former Washington County sheriff’s deputies on felony murder charges stemming from the death of Eurie Martin on July 7, 2017.
Hayward Altman, district attorney for the Middle Judicial Circuit, speaks at a news conference in this 2017 file photo. Altman announced that he would ask a grand jury to indict three former Washington County sheriff’s deputies on felony murder charges stemming from the death of Eurie Martin on July 7, 2017. Georgia Public Broadcasting

A district attorney said Friday that he plans to seek murder charges against three former Washington County deputies for their roles in a man’s electroshock death.

The news came a few days after deputies Michael Howell, Henry Lee Copeland and Rhett Scott were fired following an investigation into the July 7 incident. That summer evening, Eurie Martin of Milledgeville died after being hit with a stun gun multiple times.

District Attorney Hayward Altman said at a Friday news conference that he planned to present the felony murder charges to a grand jury Dec. 19.

Sheriff Thomas Smith said in a statement Tuesday that the deputies did not follow correct procedures on use of force. They were responding to a call about a suspicious person walking in a Deepstep neighborhood when they came across Martin.

The deputies said an altercation ensued, and Martin was hit with a stun gun before being handcuffed. Soon afterward, Martin became ill, and emergency medical services arrived to help him.

The 58-year-old died in the front yard of a home.

Altman said a GBI investigation showed that Martin was breaking no laws and did nothing wrong during his encounter with the deputies.

An attorney representing Martin’s family said they were surprised to learn the extent of the charges. The three deputies are white and Martin was black.

“We didn’t see this in Baltimore, we didn’t see this in New York, we didn’t see this in Orlando,” Francys Johnson said. “We didn’t see this in cases around this country.”

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