Friday, July 25, 2008
© Copyright 2014
Gwinnett Daily Post
LAWRENCEVILLE - A civil lawsuit brought against Sheriff Butch Conway and several sheriff's deputies by the family of Frederick Jerome Williams, who died in custody, has been dropped, Conway announced Thursday.
Williams, 31, died in May 2004 after struggling with Gwinnett County deputies. He was shocked with a Taser and placed in a restraint chair in an attempt to subdue him. He stopped breathing and later died at the hospital.
Williams' family contended his actions were spurred by an epileptic condition and the force used against him was an injustice. In 2005, a grand jury decided against forming an inquiry into Williams' death after the man's family pushed for a further investigation.
In a written statement, Conway said Williams' death was "tragic" but that "thorough" investigations by local and federal agencies cleared the deputies of any wrongdoing.
"I have always supported the actions the deputies took that night," Conway said. "They performed their duties and handled the situation appropriately. While the tape certainly looks shocking, those who are trained and know what to look for can see that they acted in accordance with proper procedures. I have always stood by all of the investigations done in this case, both locally and federally. We owe it to the citizens of Gwinnett County to make sure our law enforcement officers are safe when they are dealing with violent people. Tasers play an important role in that safety."
Use of Tasers within the Sheriff's Department has prompted prolific media attention.
In September 2003, eight months before Williams' death, Ray Charles Austin, 25, died after being shocked with Tasers while fighting with deputies at the Gwinnett County Jail. A $100,000 settlement in the subsequent wrongful-death lawsuit was issued to Austin's family in late 2006.
A third man, Carlos Rodriguez, 27, died at Gwinnett Medical Center in July 2007 after a struggle with deputies in which a Taser was deployed. No lawsuit has been filed in his death.