Saturday, September 19, 2009

Deputy Brandon Ward Accused of Police Brutality

A Maury County woman says she wants a sheriff’s deputy held accountable for an alleged case of police brutality against her son caught on another lawman’s camera.

“I want justice done for my son,” said Donna Rowland, mother of Andrew Johnson, 21, who lives in Hampshire.

Rowland said she received a voice message from her son who was arrested Sunday on a felony theft charge. According to the message, Johnson said he was punched in the face by a law enforcement officer after being taken into custody. According to sheriff’s department records, Deputy Brandon Ward was the arresting officer.

Spring Hill Police Chief John Smith said an officer in his department, Marcus Albright, was getting ready to go to work when Johnson, who appeared to be intoxicated, pulled up in his driveway. Smith said Albright detained Johnson and Ward was called out to the scene.

As Ward transferred Johnson into his squad car, Albright’s car camera taped an incident between Ward and Johnson, Smith said. Albright discovered it after reviewing the footage, which was then turned over to the sheriff’s department, Smith said.

Sheriff Enoch George confirmed Ward’s resignation this week. The officer had been on the force for about a year. George declined further comment on the case saying it had been turned over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The Daily Herald requested to interview Johnson, who remained in Maury County Jail Thursday in lieu of $10,000 bond on two counts each of aggravated burglary and theft of more than $1,000.

Initially, George approved an interview, then later said all interviews would have to be granted by District Attorney General Mike Bottoms.

When asked for permission to talk to the 21-year-old suspect, Bottoms denied the request saying it would be detrimental to the investigation.

“I can’t conduct an investigation on the front page of the newspaper,” Bottoms said.

The district attorney general also declined to discuss any other aspects of the case.

TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm confirmed an investigation had been launched Thursday, though she could not provide any details.

Rowland said she hasn’t been allowed to talk to her son since the alleged incident.

Before the incident, Rowland said Ward had stopped at her house the previous night to search for stolen property and was very disrespectful to her. She called the deputy “rude,” “hateful” and “way out-of-line.”

Rowland said she was told her son was not resisting Ward when he was allegedly punched in the face, though she said he was cussing at the officer.

“I can understand if he was fighting with him,” she said. “But this is ridiculous, and it’s illegal.”

The mother said she wants her son moved from Maury County Jail.

“He should be given protection. If one’s going to do it,” she said, referring to the alleged assault by the officer, “who’s to say another won’t?”

George said he has no plans to transfer Johnson from the jail.

Maury County Sheriff’s Detective Terry Dial said Johnson is believed to have stolen several firearms from two Maury County homes.

According to sheriff’s department records, Johnson is scheduled to appear 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in General Sessions Court.

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