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City attorney: Officer violated policy tasering Georgia woman

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: A city attorney says an officer violated policy when he tasered a Georgia woman in April
  • Janice Wells says a prowler was at the house, while police say she complained of an unwanted guest
  • A man who was there with her at the scene left
  • When she refused to give the man's name, police tried to arrest her

(CNN) -- A Lumpkin, Georgia police officer who repeatedly tasered a 57-year-old woman violated police policy but resigned before he could be fired, a city attorney said Thursday.

Lumpkin City Attorney William Nesmith said an internal police investigation revealed former officer Ryan Smith inappropriately tasered Janice Wells earlier this year.

The incident, caught on a patrol-car dash-camera tape that was released this week by Wells' attorney, cost Smith and another officer involved their jobs.

Wells called police on April 26 because she thought there was a prowler on her property in west Georgia, her attorney, Gary Parker said.

Police officer Tim Murphy of the Richland Police Department arrived and found Wells at her home with a guest who had been visiting but was leaving, Parker said. The officer asked for the guest's name, and when Wells declined to give it to the officer, he threatened to arrest her for obstruction of justice, Parker said.

The police report of the incident has a slightly different take on the situation. According to the report, officer Murphy was responding to a call regarding an "unwanted guest" at Wells' home. When the officer arrived, Wells said that she wanted the guest, a man, to leave her property, according to the report. The cop asked the man to leave, and then asked Wells what his full name was. She declined and he said he would arrest her.

What ensued was that Murphy tried unsuccessfully to arrest Wells and called for backup. Smith, of the Lumpkin Police Department, responded and tasered the woman during the incident.

Wells was "peppered sprayed about four times and Tasered 11 to 12 times," Parker said. "You can hear the (stun) gun going off, you can hear her screaming."

"Don't do that, don't do it!" Wells can be heard shouting on the dashcam video. On the video, it sounds as though she was stunned about four times.

Despite the different versions of what led to the use of the stun gun, the police departments of Richland and Lumpkin were quick to move to discipline both officers. Murphy was fired, Richland County Attorney Tommy Coleman said. Smith, the officer who used the stun gun, resigned and went to another police department before receiving a termination letter written by Lumpkin Police Chief Steven Ogle, authorities said.

"She was a school teacher; she had to teach the next day. She couldn't make bond and she had to spend the night in jail," said Stewart County Sheriff Larry Jones.

Jones, who knows Wells, arrived at the scene just after the stun gun incident concluded.

"When I arrived, Mrs. Wells was screaming 'I didn't do anything, I didn't do anything.' She was seated in the car and she was screaming 'Larry help me, I hadn't done anything.'"

On the dashcam tape, Wells can be heard yelling as the sheriff described.

"When I saw the tape, I thought, 'This can't be true.' You don't do an animal like this. One time, maybe (with the Taser). If she was physically fighting back maybe, but she was just sitting there," Jones said. "He attacked her with that Taser."

Reached by CNN, Murphy declined to comment. Efforts to reach Smith were unsuccessful.

Wells was a teacher for 33 years who came out of retirement to teach third graders, her attorney said. The incident has made her withdrawn and anxious, he said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation reviewed video of the incident and found no criminal wrongdoing and no one had requested that the agency investigate further, authorities said.

In Session's Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.