Georgia city settles lawsuit filed by family of man who died after officers used stun guns



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ATLANTA — An Atlanta-area city has agreed to pay $1 million to the family of a man who died after police officers used stun guns on him, attorneys said Thursday.

The family of Gregory Towns Jr. said in a lawsuit that East Point police officers used their stun guns as many as 13 times on the 24-year-old while he was handcuffed April 11 .

"I think, at the end of the day, both parties just wanted to do the right thing, and the city did the right thing in our opinion," said attorney Chris Stewart, who represents Towns' family.

The city of East Point agreed to pay the maximum amount allowed by the city's insurance policy, Stewart said. Acting city attorney Brad Bowman said the maximum allowed by the city's policy is $1 million.

Neither of the officers named in the lawsuit still works for the department. Former police Sgt. Marcus Eberhart resigned, and former Cpl. Howard Weems was fired. Weems has appealed his dismissal, and that appeal is pending, Bowman said.

The city has also agreed to retrain its police officers on the use of stun guns, Stewart said.

"They certified that all of the East Point officers are now Taser retrained and certified, which we think is actually more important than the fact that they paid the entire insurance policy because now the whole community is safe," he said.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Towns' estate and his infant son in August, said officers approached the 24-year-old as he was leaving his son's mother's apartment complex after a domestic dispute. When officers asked to talk to him, he ran away. The officers caught up with him after he tripped and fell.

Officers handcuffed Towns and ordered him to get up and walk to a patrol car, but Towns said he was too tired from running. Weems threatened to use his stun gun on Towns if he did not get up, the lawsuit says. Towns got up but soon fell over again, telling officers he was tired.

Stun gun logs obtained from the police department show the officers then used their stun guns on Towns as many as 13 times in 30 minutes, the lawsuit said. That would be in violation of the department's stun gun policy, which says they should not be used on someone who's handcuffed, should not be used to escort or prod someone and should not be used on someone who's offering only passive resistance.

An autopsy report from the Fulton County medical examiner's office said Towns died from "hypertensive cardiovascular disease exacerbated by physical exertion and conducted electrical stimulation." The report listed the manner of death as a homicide and cites stun gun use by police.

Towns' family is pleased that the lawsuit has been settled and hopes Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard will pursue criminal charges against the officers, Stewart said. Howard's office is still investigating the case, spokeswoman Yvette Jones said in an email Thursday.

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