Clarke County, GA - After an Athens-Clarke County PD officer was fired for hitting a fleeing felon with his patrol car, mainstream news sites have been spreading misinformation about the incident.
On Friday, Officer Taylor Saulters was driving his patrol car in pursuit of a wanted fugitive who was fleeing on foot.
During the pursuit, one of the officer's tires came of the rim, making it difficult to control his car. The officer struck the suspect with his vehicle while attempting to pass him, resulting in bruises and scrapes to the suspect.
The officer had been with the department for under a year after spending years in the U.S. Army. He was still in probationary status, making it easy for him to be fired to appease the public.
Along with the news about the firing, the department said that Officer Saulters had unintentionally struck the fleeing felon while trying to accelerate past him.
The chief said that he believed that the driving was still negligent, which is why he says he fired the officer.
Despite the department announcing that the vehicle strike appeared unintentional, news sites have been reporting sensationalized headlines implying that the officer was attempting to murder the fleeing criminal.
Daily Mail even went so far as to say that Officer Saulters was fired for "deliberately mowing down" the suspect, which seems like an exceptionally hyperbolic way to say "bruised."
ABC News jumped in on the sensational headlines as well.
Other sites with false headlines include far left sites like The Root and Think Progress.
Officer Saulters' wife says that the false information being spread about the incident has made them unsafe.
"We are no longer safe or comfortable where we live," Lauren Saulters said.
She added that her family is facing baseless accusations of being racist after news outlets spread that Officer Saulters intentionally "mowed down" a black man.
Lauren said that they are absolutely ready to sue these news agencies for spreading misinformation.
Lauren and Taylor now have no way to support themselves or their 10-month-old son.
A GoFundMe page has been established to help the family pay basic living expenses and to hire an attorney.
The car-strike happened on Friday, at around 7:30 p.m., when Officer Hunter Blackmon and 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 which generated outrage with a false version of events before being taken down on Sunday.
The video was posted with the description:
"Athens-Clarke County, Georgia Police Car #235 Hit 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 #235 Both 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.
You can see the bodycam video of the incident below.
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