A drunk Army veteran was behind the wheel during the hit-and-run crash that ultimately led to a Gwinnett County police officer’s arrest and resignation, a newly released incident report said.
Ryan Christopher Head, a five-year veteran of the Gwinnett County Police Department, was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. Accused of brandishing a handgun during a post-crash altercation, he resigned in lieu of termination the same day.
More details emerged Tuesday with the release of associated incident reports.
Police said 27-year-old Rhett Ethan Barfield, whose Facebook page lists him as a former member of the U.S. Army, was behind the wheel of his Jeep Wrangler at about 10 p.m. Saturday night. The vehicle, which Head was a passenger in, was reportedly stopped at a green light on Grayson Highway near its intersection with Webb Gin House Road.
Coming across the stopped vehicle, a driver in a Nissan Pathfinder passed it on the right before getting in the left turn lane for Webb Gin House Road. While the Pathfinder was waiting to turn, Barfield’s Wrangler allegedly hit it from behind, causing “extensive damage.” The two drivers spoke and agreed to pull into the nearby RaceTrac gas station.
Barfield, police said, fled instead.
The victim and another witness gave chase, following the vehicle for about a mile before it turned into a subdivision on Great Oaks Drive. Barfield reportedly pulled into a cul-de-sac and was blocked in by both pursuing vehicles.
Barfield fled on foot while Head, the police officer, allegedly “staggered back to the vehicle of the witness and began tapping on the window with the back of his hand (and) the barrel of a gun.”
“He never pointed the gun at me, he just kept tapping the window to let me know he had a gun,” the witness told police.
Head then stared down the other driver, who fled. Both Head and Barfield then got back in their vehicle and left the scene.
The witness continued to give pursuit, updating a 911 dispatcher as the incident continued.
The two cars traveled another two miles down Webb Gin House Road before pulling into another neighborhood, this one off Kenilworth Trace. Gwinnett County police arrived at the same time.
Barfield “became very agitated” after being handcuffed and attempted to slip out of the restraints, police said. He allegedly spit in the face of an officer. Once at the Gwinnett County jail, Barfield reportedly registered a 0.130 blood-alcohol content, well above the legal driving limit of 0.08.
Barfield, a Snellville resident, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, hit and run, obstruction and two counts of simple battery. He was later released on $5,620 bond.
Head, meanwhile, allegedly yelled at his fellow officers as they attempted to arrest him.
“… (He) kept yelling in a loud voice, ‘I’m a (expletive) cop, what the (expletive) do you think you are doing?’” the incident report said. “When the passenger did step out of the vehicle he stumbled and fell at which time he was also placed in handcuffs for officer safety.”
It was not specified if Head was suspected of having consumed alcohol.
Listed as an Auburn resident, Head was booked into the Gwinnett County jail at 12:21 a.m. Sunday and released about eight hours later on $3,700 bond. He was notified the same day of the police department’s intent to terminate his employment and resigned instead, spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said Monday.