East Point, GA — In an unprecedented win for police accountability, a former East Point police officer was sentenced to life in prison for murder while is partner was sentenced to 18 months — for killing a man by excessively tasing him.
According to the AJC, Fulton Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk was obligated to sentence former East Point Police Department Sgt. Marcus Eberhart to life after he was convicted Friday of murdering Gregory Towns in April 2014. But the judge had latitude in deciding the punishment for former police Cpl. Howard Weems, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and violation of an oath by a public officer.
Once Weems finishes his sentence, according to the judge, he will be required to speak to at least 10 other police departments to inform them about the dangers of repeatedly tasering individuals. However, because Weems was sentenced under the Georgia First Offender Act, once he completes his sentence, he will no longer be a convicted felon.
The short sentence and subsequent expunging of Weems’ record have angered Towns’ family who says the weak punishment suggests his crime was not serious.
As the Free Thought Project previously reported in 2014, Weems and Eberhart found Towns sitting down and out of breath after a short foot chase. He asked officers at least ten times to be allowed to rest before going with them. However, they would not oblige.
Instead of allowing him to rest, the cops then decided to use their weapons as a cattle prod to force the weak man to walk.
Towns died after being tased 14 times in 29 minutes. Two officers repeatedly shocked this man’s body for a total of 47 seconds… while unarmed and handcuffed.
The autopsy ruled the death a homicide, as Towns died in a shallow creek where several of the shocks took place.
Luckily, a passerby decided to pull out their phone and document the abuse with a photograph which would later be used against the officers as evidence.
Lawyers for the family exposed how police tried to cover up how many times they used their tasers. Only six taser shocks were logged on their police reports despite taser logs which indicate that Sgt. Marcus Eberhart fired his Taser 10 times, and officer Howard Weems fired four times.
According to Amnesty International, between 2001 and 2008, 351 people in the United States died from being shocked by police tasers. Electronic Villiage has documented another 212 taser-related deaths in the United States from 2009-2014. That means there have been at least 563 documented taser-related deaths in America since 2001.
While we often ask “why didn’t that cop use a taser instead of his gun?”, it is important to remember that while a person is less likely to die from a taser shock than a gun shot, they are still a weapon, and still often unnecessary and lethal.
While this sentence is certainly a win for justice, there are multiple other cases of officers tasering people to death and getting off scot free.
On November 20th, 2015, sheriff deputies in Coweta County, Georgia were summoned to help subdue a man having a psychotic breakdown. Instead of helping him, they tasered him to death. In October week, the Coweta district attorney’s office announced their decision to not press charges against the officers responsible.
The death of 32-year-old Chase Sherman was captured on video, yet neither of the cops was charged.
On February 3rd, 2015, Natasha McKenna, 37, was shocked four times with 50,000 volts while her hands were cuffed behind her back, her legs in shackles, and wearing a mesh mask.
The multiple electric shocks stopped her heart and her breathing. She was taken to Fairfax hospital, however, it was too late. McKenna was declared brain dead and removed from life support several days later.
None of the officers involved in McKenna’s death were charged.
On March 3rd, 2015, Ruth Temple called out Oklahoma police officers after her boyfriend started acting strangely. That 9-1-1 Call would eventually lead to Temple’s boyfriend, Darrell Gatewood’s death.
A clearly mentally distraught Gatewood was then dragged into the street and pepper sprayed and tasered.
“He would release, Taser again, release, Taser again.” said witness Leeann Mize. “It was scary and out of line. They killed a husband, a father and a grandfather in front of the grandbabies, wife and the daughter.”
None of the officers were charged in the death of Gatewood.
Sadly, these are only a handful of the many cases in which police shocked people to death. The list goes on.