Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police have called in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation following the arrest of a Savannah teenager who was injured after fighting with officers during an arrest Saturday night.
"Undercover officers assigned to the SCMPD’s Undercover Narcotics Investigation Team, or UNIT, were working East Savannah streets to disrupt and arrest shooting offenders and street drug dealers when they observed a suspicious black Nissan Altima," a police spokesman says.
At approximately 7:30 p.m. they observed the vehicle "driving recklessly in the state streets area. The officers, wearing outer vests imprinted with “POLICE” on them, attempted to stop a male exiting the vehicle. The male ran from officers," the spokesman says.
That male has been identified as a 16-year-old who listed a Port Wentworth address. He stands approximately 5’11” tall and weighs approximately 170 lbs.
Another undercover officer wearing an outer vest with “POLICE” imprinted on it also responded. "That officer chased the fleeing individual and tackled him to the ground. A fight ensued and the individual refused to comply with officers’ commands. Officers used physical force, but the individual continued to fight," police say.
It was only after the arrival of a K-9 team that the individual stopped fighting with officers and complied. The K-9 did not bite the individual, according to police.
The individual was then placed in handcuffs. During a pat down search, officers found 10 small bags of marijuana on the teenager. He was then placed in the back of a patrol car.
"The individual told officers he was tired and had asthma and officers called for EMS," police say. "The individual was coherent but was having trouble breathing. Southside Fire and EMS responded and transported him to Memorial University Medical Center for further examination."
After being advised of the issues Sunday, Chief Joseph H. Lumpkin, Sr. requested the GBI to investigate the subject arrest incident.
"It will always be the intention of my department to keep the public informed of all the facts of cases to the point that we can," he said, "But I have asked the GBI to investigate and we cannot release information that may hinder their appropriate and proper investigation. It has been placed in the hands of the GBI and from this point forward that agency will take the lead in any information released.”
The male is under police watch at the hospital; he is charged with Obstruction of an Officer, Felony Obstruction of an Officer, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Tools during the Commission of a Crime, and Reckless Driving. He will be transported to the Youth Detention Center once he is released.
The officers involved in the response to force and arrest are Sgt. Corey Schaff, Officer Antwan Diggs, Corporal John Eric Smith, and Advanced Police Officer Michael Dobson. They have been placed on restrictive duty status. "That means the officers are authorized to be armed and report for restrictive duty, but to perform only administrative functions, no street assignments, no overtime assignments or off-duty assignments," the police spokesman says.
The K-9 officer who responded was Advanced Police Officer Phillip Collard, "but the K-9 did not bite the teen," police say.
Members of the UNIT were in plainclothes and not outfitted with body cameras. Moving forward Chief Lumpkin has ordered that any overtime officer or other assets deployed in support of the UNIT, wear BWCs and be equipped with an Electronic Control Device (Tasers).