SAVANNAH | Savannah-Chatham Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin says that four officers have been suspended after one of them used a Taser on a Savannah man in a case of mistaken identity earlier this year.
On Friday, Lumpkin sent a statement to news media in which he said he had “personally apologized” to Patrick Mumford, the 24-year-old man whom police initially charged with a crime after using a stun gun on him Feb. 1 in front of a home on Martha Street in Savannah.
The officers, who were searching for someone else, did not ask Mumford for identification, which, Lumpkin said, “May have de-escalated the situation at its onset.”
“On behalf of the men and women of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department and as human beings, we sincerely regret what Mr. Patrick Mumford experienced on February 1, 2016, in the encounter with our officers,” Lumpkin said in his statement.
It was not immediately clear for how long Sgt. Robert Kendrick, Cpl. Charles Wilson and officers Sharif Lockett and Aaron Fox were suspended or if they were suspended without pay.
Lumpkin said that the incident was not reported to him until July 12, when a TV news station asked for comment.
“Incident information was not passed up the chain of command, which is a violation of SCMPD policy,” Lumpkin said.
The chief says the department is taking steps to ensure similar situations don’t occur in the future.
Mumford’s lawyer, Will Claiborne, who brought a spotlight to the case last month, said he hopes to see those changes.
“We appreciate that the city appears to be in the process of accepting responsibility for what they did, and we hope to see them put further action behind those words,” Claiborne said Friday night. “However, repentance without penance is cheap grace.”
On Feb. 1, three officers responded to Martha Street looking to serve a warrant to Michael Bernard Clay. Instead, they found Mumford sitting in a black four-door sedan.
Video footage shows officers approached Mumford, asking his name and demanding that he get out of the car.
“What’s your name? We probably need to talk to you. So what’s your name?” one officer said.
Mumford answered “uh… Patrick?” after a pause. He initially complied when police asked him to stand up, but then retreated back into the vehicle when officers failed to immediately tell him why they were looking for him or provide a copy of the warrant.
“Get your hand off the wheel,” the officer said. “This is going to get bad for you.”
The 24-year-old told officers he didn’t have any warrants and he had just come back from seeing his probation officer.
Officers shouted at Mumford to get out of the car to which he retreated further back in the vehicle, kicking his leg up when another officer shouted to get the Tasers.
Police used a Taser on Mumford twice, once for a five-second cycle and the second time “accidentally,” according to police reports.
Officers handcuffed Mumford as neighbors shouted at police to stop and for Mumford to comply with the officers’ requests.
Officers can be heard on video arguing with residents nearby whether or not Mumford and Clay resemble each other.
“I don’t know if you got a warrant because you’re not who I’m looking for,” an officer said to Mumford. “But here’s the deal when I ask you for I.D. — because you look a lot like the person that we’re looking for that’s living at this address — then you give us I.D.”
He was taken to the hospital to remove the Taser prongs from his body and was later charged with obstruction. Mumford is on probation for a non-violent drug charge and is a first time offender. The arrest violates Mumford’s probation under Georgia’s First Offender Act and could result in a seven-year prison sentence, Claiborne said.
Mumford was initially charged with obstruction, but the charge was eventually dropped. A posting made by Claiborne’s law firm in July started making national headlines, and the police department initially issued a statement calling it “misleading” and “inflammatory” while releasing complete footage of the incident, which was caught by body cameras worn by the officers.
A report wasn’t filed on the matter for nearly two months.
“In all cases in which force is used by a police officer against a suspect, SCMPD policy requires that supervisory personnel file a “Use of Force” report, which is reported up the chain of command,” Lumpkin said. “In this case, the sergeant did not file the report on use of force until several weeks after the event, on April 22, 2016.”
On Friday, Lumpkin said the encounter “was outside the policies of the SCMPD.”
“Disciplinary action has been applied to officers who are being held accountable for the violations of the SCMPD’s policy,” Lumpkin said. “Also, all of our precinct supervisors have provided additional training to officers during shift briefings. This training is mandatory and uses a curriculum that focuses on the laws of arrest and SCMPD’s policy and procedure requirements. SCMPD is also filming a local video for our citizenry and police to show how we can better communicate and interact with each other and prevent miscommunications in the future.”