Oglethorpe County, GA - After an Athens-Clarke County PD officer was fired for hitting a fleeing felon with his patrol car on Saturday, he's already been hired by Oglethorpe County Sheriff's Office.
In an announcement on Monday, Sheriff David Gabriel said that he has known Taylor Saulters since he was a baby, and he knows that he will make a great deputy.
"In talking to Saulters the first question he asked was if our citizens supported law enforcement," the sheriff said. "Without hesitation I assured him they did and that we have excellent people that live in our county."
"I have no reservations about Dep. Saulters serving this community," the sheriff added. "As a citizen of Oglethorpe County you will find the wisdom of this decision in getting a deputy of this caliber. If you still have concerns I will discuss them with you if you contact me."
The sheriff said that if you don't actually live in Oglethorpe County, then you shouldn't worry about it.
The incident which got now-Deputy Saulters fired started on Friday, at around 7:30 p.m., when Officer Hunter Blackmon and then-Officer Taylor Saulters spotted a wanted fugitive, Timmy Patmon, on Vine Street and Nellie B Avenue, according to Athens-Clarke County PD.
When the officer attempted to make contact with Patmon, he fled from the officers.
Officer Blackmon chased Patmon on foot, while Officer Saulters attempted to block his escape by getting ahead of him with the patrol car.
Officer Saulters' car jumped the sidewalk in order to block Patmon's escape route. As the vehicle drove onto the sidewalk, it struck the curb which knocked the officer's front-left tire off of the rim, immediately flattening it.
Patmon ran around the car, and Officer Saulters continued driving after him.
As Officer Saulters drove after Patmon, he drove into the oncoming lane of traffic to avoid a collision with Patmon while struggling to control his vehicle with the dislodged wheel. While trying to control his patrol car, the vehicle struck Patmon.
Patmon went to the ground and officers struggled to gain control of him while he resisted arrest. The officers were able to wrestle his hands behind his back without using any additional force.
Patmon was transported to the hospital where he was evaluated and determined to only have scrapes and bruises. He was taken into custody after his discharge from the hospital.
During the time period when the officers were on the ground trying to arrest Patmon, a motorist captured part of the scene on video and posted it to Facebook. They deleted the video on Sunday after the bodycam proved their version of events to be grossly inaccurate.
The video was posted with the description:
"Athens-Clarke County, Georgia Police Car#235Hit That Man Because He Was Running From Them && They Could Not Chase Him. Then, They Proceeded To Hand Cuff That Man After He Got Hit By Their Police Car Instead Of Calling The Ambulance!!! Then, The Two Policemen In Police Car#235Both Started Attacking/Strangling That UNARMED Man While He Was In HandCuffs, Faced Down On The Ground! It Took 8 Police Cars To Come Out There For One UNARMED Boy && It Also Served As A Racist Act Of Policing!!! Police Brutality Is REAL && SOMEONE Needs To Put A Stop To It!!! I Don’t Care What Crime That Man Did, But It Is UNJUST How The Police Handle Matters! Instead Of Following Protocol && Normal Procedures, The Police Took Matters Into Their Own Hands By Running Into That Man With The Police Car Rather Than Get Out Of The Police Car && Run/Chase Behind Him!! MAKE THIS GO VIRAL!!!! Get These Police FIRED && PROSECUTED!!!!#BlackLivesMatter"
People on social media spread the video and false description and demanded accountability.
AJC reports that Patmon's family said that the police ran him over, and that his mother thought he was dead after he was bumped by the car. The bodycam video disproves these claims.
“They were chasing him from behind. They didn’t have to run him over,” Patmon's bother told WSB-TV.
Following public outcry demanding the termination of Officer Saulters, a department spokesman said that they don't believe that Saulters intentionally hit Patmon, according to AJC. The department said that Officer Saulters was just attempting to accelerate past Patmon, while attempting to control a vehicle with a flat tire.
After local outrage over the incident, the Chief decided to immediately fire Officer Saulters, and called the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to seek potential criminal charges against the officer.
The chief said that even though the officer's actions were unintentional, he believes that the officer was negligent.
Officer Saulters had just recently joined the department after leaving the U.S. Army, and was still on probationary status, making it possible for him to be terminated without cause.
Deputy Saulters' wife told Blue Lives Matter that after numerous media outlets falsely reported that the officer intentionally hit Patmon, they've been the target of widespread accusations of racism.
"We are no longer safe or comfortable where we live," Lauren Saulters said.
Deputy Saulters still faces potential criminal charges which could derail his new career with the Oglethorpe County Sheriff's Office and result on prison time.
A GoFundMe page has been established to help the family, which can help with attorney fees.
You can see the bodycam video of the incident below: