Kingsland police reviewing Taser arrest

By Vic Micolucci, General assignment reporter, vic@wjxt.com
Elizabeth Campbell, General assignment reporter, ecampbell@wjxt.com
Published On: Jun 11 2014 04:50:44 AM EDT
Updated On: Jun 11 2014 06:50:37 PM EDT

VIDEO: Kingsland police release dash cam video of the arrest of 27-year-old Centauris Simon who was wanted on drug charges. The family claims Officer Wellner used his taser several times after the suspect was already in handcuffs. The review board will come to a conclusion after looking into it.

KINGSLAND, Ga. -

The Kingsland Police Department is reviewing a case where officers used a Taser on a man during an arrest in May.

The family of 27-year-old Centauris Simon (pictured below) said police brutally beat him. But the department said he struggled with officers, even after being handcuffed.

At a City Council meeting in Kingsland on Monday night, Simon's family said they were not condoning his behavior, but asked the Kingsland Police Department to investigate the behavior of Officer Douglas Wellner.

Centauris Simon Six members of the Kingland Police Department are meeting Wednesday to review all the investigative material, which will bring them one step closer to making a final decision.

“First of all, this is not a case of police brutality or use of excessive force," said Kingsland Chief of Police Darryl Griffis. "The officer used sufficient force to arrest an individual who was injured. The officer was also injured in the course of the arrest."

Dashcam video from the police car of the backup officer shows the aftermath of the take down, which was not caught on video but can be heard on another dashcam.

Griffis said after reviewing video and audio from May when Wellner arrested Simon, he believed his officer did the right thing. He said his preliminary findings show no violation of policy or procedure, but the department's use of force board will ultimately make that decision.

Simon's aunt Mary Matthews said the situation was not handled properly.

“We do feel like the way Centauris was treated unjust," Matthews said. "He was already handcuffed and there was no need for the constant beating he received. I just feel like they could have handled that differently."

Griffis said Simon had a warrant out for eight felony counts. He said when Wellner recognized him as a wanted man, Simon ran and Wellner chased him, catching up with him three blocks away.

On the audio from the dashcam, an officer can be heard shouting, "Get on the ground! Get down! Get your hands on the ground!" And then a Taser is used.

The suspect screams, and the officer yells, "Don't move!" Later the officer can be heard saying, "I'm gonna give you one last chance." And then, "You're about to get it again."

Minutes later, backup arrives, and as another officer approaches Simon cries out, "I'm down! I'm down! I'm down!" One of the officer says, "Shut the hell up!"

Soon after, Simon's aunt and some other relatives arrive on the seen. Matthews said Simon yelled out to her, "They are trying to kill me, auntie!"

Matthews said her issue is with the number of times Simon was stunned with a Taser.

"If he is handcuffed already, now he is pulled from the car, and you are beating him, I have a problem with that," Matthews said.

She's filed a complaint with Griffis, upset that Wellner hasn't been suspended or fired.

Kingsland officer after scuffle Griffis said during the confrontation Simon bit Wellner on the hand and arm and slammed him on the ground. There are pictures of Wellner after the take down, showing evidence of a fight.

Griffis said both Wellner and Simon were taken to the hospital after the arrest and were released within hours.

Griffis said after hearing concerns that police brutality was used, he's hoping the board will be able to review the videos and come to the same conclusion he did.

“It’s my job to work with them and show them that the officer was using just enough force to arrest Mr. Simon, and that’s my job and I intend on meeting with Mr. Simon’s dad as well as aunt as many times as they would like and go over the case with them,” Griffis said.

He said when the review board comes to a conclusion and releases its findings, he'll let Simon's family — and the media — know. Griffis said Welllner has been with the department two years and has never had a problem.

Matthews said she watched the videos, too, and won't stop fighting until her nephew gets justice.

“'Run again, I will stun you again. Stand still. You move again, I will stun you.' To me it was not necessary,” Matthews said.

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