Deputy fired for use of excessive force

“This incident went beyond the scope of acceptable force and will not be tolerated in this office."

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Recorded on cellphone video putting his knee on a black man’s neck, a North Carolina sheriff’s deputy was recently fired for use of excessive force.

On March 2, Washington County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Gary Thomas for possession of marijuana. Thomas’ girlfriend, Caressil Goddard, met Thomas’ mother and aunt at the Washington County courthouse when Deputy Aaron Edwards put his knee on Thomas’ neck.

In the cellphone video recorded by Goddard, Deputy Edwards appeared to drive his knee onto the back of Thomas’ neck and slamming his head against the wall before dragging him into the building. Deputies also arrested Thomas’ aunt for attempting to intervene.

“Now everybody can see how it goes down here,” Goddard told WITN. “They drug him all the way back to the door and still dragged him and his head hit the building. Then, he was knocked out for a minute.”

On Friday, County Manager Curtis Potter confirmed that Edwards was no longer employed by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office as of Tuesday. Sheriff Johnny Barnes also confirmed that Edwards had been fired after an internal investigation and reviewing the footage of the incident.

In a statement, Sheriff Barnes said, “This incident went beyond the scope of acceptable force and will not be tolerated in this office. Our officers work hard daily to earn the trust of our citizens and we will continue to strive to serve our citizens with professionalism nothing less will be acceptable.”

According to Barnes, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation continues to investigate the incident. District Attorney Seth Edwards will receive the results of the investigation to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against Edwards.

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