Gwinnett deputy arrested for punching jail inmate

Aaron Masters

A member of the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office Rapid Response Team was arrested Friday for allegedly punching a female jail inmate’s head multiple times, officials have confirmed.

The Sheriff’s Office said Deputy Aaron Masters has been charged with misdemeanor battery for what officials called a “lapse of judgement (sic).” He was booked into the jail at about 4 p.m. Friday, but was released not long afterward on bond.

Masters resigned when he turned himself in for arrest Friday, according to a sheriff's office spokeswoman.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Sheriff Butch Conway said in a statement. “Our deputies work hard every day to provide a safe community for citizens, inmates and staff alike. There’s no room for a quick temper in this job and this behavior will not be tolerated.”

Masters’ arrest is the latest incident where use of force by a member of the Rapid Response Team has been called into question. There is an ongoing federal lawsuit involving the team and documents in that case have revealed the team’s activities are being investigated by the federal government.

The Sheriff’s Office said the incident involving Masters happened Aug. 20. He and two other deputies were allegedly punched, kicked or bitten by an unruly inmate. Masters was punched in the groin during the incident while another deputy was kicked and a third was bitten.

Although Masters had to receive medical attention, he helped other deputies subdue the inmate, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

“The inmate was safely subdued initially, but immediately began self-harming behavior as soon as the deputies left her cell,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “Deputies entered the cell again to prevent the inmate from harming herself. It was during this exchange that Aaron Masters is seen on video striking the inmate in the head three times with a closed fist.”

Masters has worked for the Sheriff’s Office for three years and officials said his service record was otherwise “unblemished” with “no disciplinary history.”

But Sheriff’s Office officials denounced the assault on the inmate, calling it “disturbing” and saying it was discovered during a routine use of force review.

“It was clear that Aaron Masters’ actions were unprovoked and outside our established policies and procedures,” the office said in its statement on the arrest. “Sheriff Butch Conway requested that the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office assist with the investigation, which determined that Aaron Masters should be charged with Battery (misdemeanor).”

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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