Two former South Carolina police officers were sentenced to prison this week for using excessive force against a mentally disabled woman. After pleading guilty to violating the victim’s civil rights, the officers admitted they had no legitimate reason for tasing her eight times while she posed no threat to herself or others.
On April 2, 2013, Officer Eric Walters of the Marion Police Department noticed Melissa Davis walking out of the yard of a house for sale. Suspecting Davis of breaking into the home, Walters confronted her and deployed his Taser. Davis immediately fell to the ground and injured her head.
According to his plea agreement, Walters recalled ordering Davis to put her hands behind her back and firing his Taser four more times into her back without giving her time to comply. By the time backup arrived, Walters had Davis in handcuffs and was removing the probes in her back after determining she had not committed a crime. Claiming one of Davis’ hands had slipped from her improperly applied handcuffs, Officer Franklin Brown fired his Taser at Davis three more times even though he later confessed that she was not attempting to escape.
Brown offered to release Davis if he could shoot her one more time in the forehead with his Taser. According to his plea agreement, Brown told the other officers that he had deployed his Taser because he did not want to touch Davis.
“The defendants abused their authority as law enforcement officers by repeatedly tasing a defenseless, compliant victim,” stated Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.
In October 2014, Walters and Brown pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under color of law. On Monday, Walters was sentenced to serve one year and a day in prison. That same day, Brown received 18 months in prison because he had used his Taser while Davis was already in handcuffs. Both defendants are also subject to three years of supervised release following their prison sentences and each face a $100 special assessment.
According to the prosecution and a civil lawsuit, Davis was well known around the small city of Marion and the officers should have been aware of her diminished mental state. Davis’ caretaker filed the lawsuit against the officers and the city because along with the physical pain, Davis continues to suffer mental anguish every time she sees a cop or the scar on her forehead reflected in the mirror.
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