Former sheriff’s deputies Henry Lee Copeland, Michael Howell and Rhett Scott have been indicted in connection with the death of Eurie Lee Martin. On July 7 Martin was walking, presumably to see family—it was his birthday—when he stopped to knock on someone’s door asking for a glass of water. The person, not knowing Martin, told him to leave and then called the police. Three officers responded to the call and found the 58-year-old Martin—who suffers from schizophrenia—walking down the street. According to those police, Martin didn’t respond to them and then a fight broke out between he and the officers, they tased him and then he went into respiratory distress at which time they called for EMS, who arrived too late to help Martin. But they didn’t expect a passing motorist to have captured some of the event on video.
After an initial investigation the three officers were fired.
Washington County Sheriff Thomas Smith released a statement on Thursday announcing his decision to fire the three deputies who were involved.
Sheriff Smith says Washington County District Attorney Hayward Altman contacted him after the GBI released their findings of the case they’ve been looking into since early July.
They found that the three officers involved–Deputies Michael Howell, Henry L. Copeland and Rhett Scott violated many of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office’s procedures.
That was in October. On Tuesday these charges came down from the Washington County district attorney.
- felony murder with the underlying offense of aggravated assault
- felony murder with the underlying offense of false imprisonment
- involuntary manslaughter with the underlying offense of reckless conduct
- involuntary manslaughter with the underlying offense of simple assault
- false imprisonment
- aggravated assault
- reckless conduct
- simple assault
The jury didn’t need much time to decide on the indictments, but as we all have seen—indicting law enforcement is considerably easier than convicting law enforcement.
The charges stem from an encounter Martin had with the deputies as he walked along Deepstep Road in Washington County, when the deputies responded to a call of a suspicious person and eventually deployed a taser against him. The Grand Jury deliberated for five minutes before returning the indictments against the defendants.
The officers’ attorney says that the evidence doesn’t support the indictments. One thing to remember—Eurie Martin committed no crime.