Columbia County Sheriff’s Office responds to allegation of mistreatment during traffic stop

RAW: Columbia County Sheriff's Office false accusation dashcam footage

COLUMBIA COUNTY, GA (WFXG) - The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office took to Facebook to address allegations of officer misconduct after a driver accused a deputy of mistreating him during a routine traffic stop.

The man posted on Facebook multiple times on Tuesday, July 30, detailing what he said happened during the stop and how it left him feeling. Among the allegations, he said he was held at gunpoint and followed home after he was released.

Last night i was stopped by a police officer leaving spring lakes. As i turned onto Columbia rd my phone lit up due to navigation telling me where to go. I am upset but grateful! Thank you Lord for protecting me. I thank Him for allowing me to arrive safely home without getting shot or killed by the police. The deputy approached with his flashlight and his gun drawn... l was asked to get out of my car and perform tasks to prove that i had not been drinking... i complied without complaint with my hands up. I currently have optical issues resulting from a recent concussion, thus visual problems with bright light, which i calmly explained to the cop while completing the tasks. I then passed. The deputy throughout the investigation had his gun into my back and worked up my back and neck. Even more so when i told the officer calmly my wallet with my License was in the trunk of my car in my NCCU golf bookbag; using one hand and gun to back i retrieved wallet slowly. The cop demanded slow movement while forcibly pressing the gun in different areas of my back. After passing all test another deputy arrived and insisted I complete some of the same tasks again... this cop insisted on seeing registration and insurance. Again with flashlight and gun pointed at me i retrieved documentation. Including having to get my phone out of the car and show a visual of my insurance being that i have a new car. I hence passed again. The cop later told me that i was stopped because the cop saw a light on in the interior of my car assuming he was holding his cell phone ( i understand that all cars with screens illuminate when a call is received, navigation, etc & my cell phone wasn’t on my person) The deputy told me to drive safely and i was not ticketed. He laughed that he used the same golf balls i used while i retrieved my wallet-(the deputy had seen them on the seat) ... i was pulled over without a shirt on rushing to my gfs house due to a surprise pool gathering my seasoned golf buddies put on for me. All i had on was sweats and flip flops. And this is funny? A joke to the cop after a tasteless effort. Then separate police cars (4) followed me 4 miles home until I turned into my subdivision. I do understand police officers have a job to do but they’re also supposed to serve and protect... remember that? The FEAR-am I going to die right now and the humiliation when I haven’t done anything wrong has shook me for the night... l couldn’t even sleep. I’m still shaking. Crying tears of joy and sadness. We have regressed to a time period where being stopped by the police may mean losing your life... not just your freedom. Please review the rules of DWB-DrivingWhileBlack with your children. Keep them covered in prayer. I know I’m not the first nor the last this will happen to. And i am just in a state of shock. My mother wouldn’t even let me write it out and drive to the lake to let go of said feelings. Due to me being followed the way i was after the incident. My grandmother even asked who is that, that pulled up behind me at my own house. Due to past occurrences on my street. I was home by midnight and i can’t even speak no more my fingers still trembling ............ .
Driver's original Facebook post

Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle said he found out about the post after it had been up for one day. “A concerned citizen who saw the post contacted us, and thank goodness,” he said. He said reading the man’s post was disheartening. “I read that post and my first thought was this can not be true. This is such a blatant abuse story that I can’t imagine it’s true, but you know you have to look,” Whittle said.

The department spent four or five days investigating. Sheriff Whittle said they pulled the dash camera video of the traffic stop, interviewed both the deputy who pulled the man over and the driver and also looked through video at multiple intersections to see if the man was followed home. After all of that, the sheriff said the allegations in the post were deemed untrue, and decided to post a response on Facebook. He said, “We felt it was important in this case, because it was growing legs, so to speak. It was gaining a following of people who were thinking, ‘Oh, this poor man was mistreated by this deputy,’ when in fact it was totally fabricated. It was a complete lie.” He said it was important to include the dash camera footage in that post. “Even though people tell outlandish stories sometimes, there is a portion of the public that will believe those stories if you don’t have some type of definitive proof to show that it’s completely false,” he explained.

Unfounded Accusation

On July 30, 2019, we were made aware by a concerned citizen of a very troubling post on the Facebook page of Garreth Carpenter. This post, which is posted below, was immediately investigated and found to be untrue. The entire stop was video recorded by an in-car camera. Although there was no audio due to a malfunctioning microphone, no verbal abuse was alleged. Traffic camera videos were also checked, which confirm that no patrol vehicles followed Mr. Carpenter to his home. Since Mr. Carpenter’s post was a public post made on Facebook, we feel the need to publicly post the truth about the incident. Thus, the entire video has been posted here for public view. On the same day that we were made aware of the post, our Internal Affairs Lieutenant met with Mr. Carpenter about his accusations. Later that same night, the post was taken down. But since numerous people had already seen and commented on Mr. Carpenter’s post, we felt compelled to post what really happened. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office takes any allegation of verbal or physical abuse very seriously. We expect our deputies to treat all persons with respect. Garreth Carpenter Tuesday, July 30, 2019 4:58 am Tonight was one of the scariest moments of my life. Garreth Carpenter Tuesday, July 30, 2019 5:13 am Last night i was stopped by a police officer leaving spring lakes. As i turned onto Columbia rd my phone lit up due to navigation telling me where to go. I am upset but grateful! Thank you Lord for protecting me. I thank Him for allowing me to arrive safely home without getting shot or killed by the police. The deputy approached with his flashlight and his gun drawn...I was asked to get out of my car and perform tasks to prove that i had not been drinking...i complied without complaint with my hands up. I currently have optical issues resulting from a recent concussion, thus visual problems with bright light, which i calmly explained to the cop while completing the tasks. I then passed. The deputy throughout the investigation had his gun into my back and worked up my back and neck. Even more so when i told the officer calmly my wallet with my License was in the trunk of my car in my NCCU golf bookbag; using one hand and gun to back i retrieved wallet slowly. The cop demanded slow movement while forcibly pressing the gun in different areas of my back. After passing all test another deputy arrived and insisted I complete some of the same tasks again... this cop insisted on seeing registration and insurance. Again with flashlight and gun pointed at me i retrieved documentation. Including having to get my phone out of the car and show a visual of my insurance being that i have a new car. I hence passed again. The cop later told me that i was stopped because the cop saw a light on in the interior of my car assuming he was holding his cell phone ( i understand that all cars with screens illuminate when a call is received, navigation, etc & my cell phone wasn’t on my person) The deputy told me to drive safely and i was not ticketed. He laughed that he used the same golf balls i used while i retrieved my wallet-(the deputy had seen them on the seat).. . i was pulled over without a shirt on rushing to my gfs house due to a surprise pool gathering my seasoned golf buddies put on for me. All i had on was sweats and flip flops. And this is funny? A joke to the cop after a tasteless effort. Then separate police cars (4) followed me 4 miles home until I turned into my subdivision. I do understand police officers have a job to do but they're also supposed to serve and protect... remember that? The FEAR-am I going to die right now and the humiliation when I haven't done anything wrong has shook me for the night...I couldn’t even sleep. I’m still shaking. Crying tears of joy and sadness. We have regressed to a time period where being stopped by the police may mean losing your life...not just your freedom. Please review the rules of DWB-DrivingWhileBlack with your children. Keep them covered in prayer. I know I’m not the first nor the last this will happen to. And i am just in a state of shock. My mother wouldn’t even let me write it out and drive to the lake to let go of said feelings. Due to me being followed the way i was after the incident. My grandmother even asked who is that, that pulled up behind me at my own house. Due to past occurrences on my street. I was home by midnight and i can’t even speak no more my fingers still trembling............. Garreth Carpenter Tuesday, July 30, 2019 5.35.am I was supposed to be fishing right now. And I’m afraid to get behind the wheel of my own car. Garreth Carpenter Tuesday, July 30, 2019 5.38 am Everyone keeps asking about name and badge number. Would you remember after a situation like that. Stopped for 20 min. Then followed another 15.

Posted by Columbia County Sheriff's Office - Appling, GA on Tuesday, August 6, 2019

This is just one story of someone spreading false information about law enforcement, and Sheriff Whittle said it is not uncommon. He said, “There seems to be more complaints now over the last couple of years than ever before. And when I tell you complaints—unfounded complaints." This is an issue he said is happening everywhere, and it’s negatively impacting law enforcement numbers nationwide. He explained, “It’s not unique here. Law enforcement agencies all across the country are suffering in their personnel and man power, because people don’t want to do this job anymore because of this false narrative that’s being put out there.”

If an officer acts unprofessional and does something they should not do, let me know about it. We’ll investigate it. We’ll do what we have to do to correct it. No matter what it is, we will take care of it and make sure it’s done the proper way.
Sheriff Whittle, Columbia County Sheriff's Office

Although he feels there is a nationwide false narrative when it comes to law enforcement officers, he said he is not blind to the fact that there are some officers who do fit that description. He said, “I’m not telling you somebody doesn’t make a mistake, and I’m not telling you that once in a while someone might not be a bad apple. If they are, and if they do something wrong and it’s reported to us, we deal with it.” That’s why Sheriff Whittle said he will always take the time to investigate allegations of misconduct. “It was worth the effort in the end because I think it reassures the public that our Sheriff’s Office is doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said.

The Sheriff said the man responsible for the original Facebook post has apologized to the deputy involved.

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