SANDERSVILLE, Ga. (WJBF) – A community wants justice after a man died in the custody of three Washington County Sheriff’s Deputies following a Taser deployment. Sunday night, concerned citizens met with state and local NAACP leaders to ask law enforcement questions and map out a plan moving forward.
The GBI is investigating the incident that occurred on Friday, July 7 in Deepstep, GA. Family members stated that 58-year-old Eurie Lee Martin left his home in Milledgeville, GA on foot to travel to Sandersville, where his family lives. When he reached Deepstep, someone called 911 to report a suspicious person and when deputies with Washington County Sheriff’s Office responded, those deputies deployed their Taser. Martin, who was arrested after a physical altercation with those deputies, had respiratory issues and later died, according to the GBI.
Several NAACP branches in and around Washington County met along with state leaders. The meeting started with prayer and words from Washington County Branch NAACP President Rev. James Neal.
“Around the country you see where it’s a citizen being killed or a law enforcement being killed. We have to bring unity in the community,” he explained.
A soulful song sung by one person in attendance told the stories of emotion-filled citizens who are upset about the in-custody death Martin. The incident between Martin and Washington County Sheriff’s deputies was seen by many, even Georgia NAACP president, Francys Johnson, who called Martin’s story a narrative he’s seen before.
“This is the 27th mass meeting that I’ve been to after the death of an unarmed African American while I’ve been president of the state conference,” Johnson explained. “But if you make that mistake of going on about your business, next time it could be you.”
The packed room included everyday people, Martin’s family, Sandersville police and Washington County Commission Chairman Horace Daniel.
But the one person everyone had questions for didn’t show up.
“Unfortunately, our sheriff isn’t here. Unfortunately, our sheriff’s representatives aren’t here,” said the moderator, Quinton Howard. “They keep riding up and down the street, but they won’t stop.”
Johnson, who is an attorney, said he knows there are limitations during an investigation, but he still demanded the sheriff speaks.
“I’m aware that when there is an on-going investigation there are limited things that one can say, but you need to come and speak to your community Mr. Sheriff.”
Despite the sheriff’s absence, people still spoke to him about how deputies handled Martin.
One person stated, “Instead of coming out asking, can I help you? What can I do to get you on your way? The man wasn’t asked that. From my understanding from the video what we all watched, they started Tasing him.”
There were questions about sensitivity training for people with mental illnesses and how deputies are trained on the use of force and Tasers.
Sandersville Police Chief Victor Cuyler tried to answer how his department handles those matters.
“Before the Sandersville Police Department issues one of its officers a Taser, that officer has to actually be Tased himself. And we go through the use of force training,” he said.
Johnson added that the NAACP opposed the adoption of Tasers about 10 years ago.
“If you have members of the city council, they can adopt by policy, outlawing Tasers to be carried by law enforcement.”
Johnson also suggested the community works to establish standards for reporting the use of force. He advocated against police body cameras too if the video can’t be released through an open records law. He also called for mental health training for law enforcement, as Martin’s family has stated that their loved one had mental health issues, and he encouraged voting the current leaders out of office.
NewsChannel 6 has requested dashboard camera video of the encounter with Martin and deputies, but because this is an investigation we will have to wait.