Police investigated in pepper spray incident

STATHAM - A Decatur attorney investigating an incident in the Statham Police Department was brought in after repeated failed attempts to meet with the mother of a 16-year-old sprayed with pepper spray, a police spokesman said.

Statham police Sgt. Thomas Hinson, the department's spokesman, said police left repeated messages for the teen's mother hoping to hear her concerns about the Aug. 28 incident and explain what happened from their perspective.

But the woman never returned phone calls, Hinson said, and the next he heard, the Statham City Council was approving an investigation into the incident and there was talk of a lawsuit.

"The officers who were involved in the incident are being interviewed," Hinson said. "I don't know the whole scope of the investigation."

The matter began after Hinson received a phone call about people standing in the street selling drugs, he said, and went out to investigate. When he asked the three males standing in the road on Ventura Street to move out of the street, two complied and one did not.

Hinson said he asked two other officers to drive by the area shortly thereafter to ensure that the three were no longer in the road. The two who had stepped onto the grass remained there, but the third, the 16-year-old, continued to stand in the middle of the lane, he said.

That teen would not reveal his name when asked by police, Hinson said, and began to swear at the officers. He then threw a basketball and some workout shoes he had been wearing over his shoes into a yard, and clenched his fists as if to hit the officer, C.D. Moody, Hinson said.

Moody told the youth to get on the ground or be sprayed with pepper spray, Hinson said, and he sprayed the 16-year-old when he stepped toward him.

The teen was then arrested and taken to the Statham Police Department until his mother came to get him about an hour later.

An internal investigation showed Moody's actions were within the department's policy, Hinson said. But the City Council voted to have Decatur attorney Laurel Henderson investigate the incident. Mayor Robert Bridges was on vacation Tuesday and did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Henderson said she has started interviewing the officers involved but has no time frame for when the investigation will be completed. She declined further comment on the investigation, saying she did not think it was appropriate.

Hinson said Moody has been with the department for about a year and has received no other complaints. Since the incident, rumors have begun about previous actions, Hinson said, but no other complaints have been made to the department.

Moody has not been terminated or placed on any sort of leave while the investigation continues.

"Officer Moody had a legitimate reason to be there," Hinson said. "(The teen) had committed a criminal offense, he was a pedestrian in the roadway. Officer Moody said he would have issued a warning, but the juvenile's actions dictated otherwise."

Hinson said he has not been served a lawsuit but the possibility of legal action had been threatened. The department welcomes the investigation, he said.