‘Don’t Think There Was a Crime’: Use of Force Expert Says Black Georgia Man Who Died After Police Encounter Following Neighbor’s 911 Call Committed No Crime That Warranted the Stop

Prosecutors rested their case last week after only two days of testimonies in the stun gun death trial of Eurie Lee Martin after a former Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agent skilled in “use-of-force” testified that the 58-year-old had not committed a crime that warranted law enforcement officers to even stop him the day he died.

Screenshot bodycam footage

Since the 2017 incident, the three former Washington County Sheriff’s deputies involved, Henry Lee Copeland, Michael Howell and Rhett Scott, all of whom are white, have maintained that Martin had physically threatened them after allegedly Illegally walking in the roadway.

However, a nearly hourlong evidence footage of the fatal arrest failed to corroborate those claims.

The GBI agent, John Durden, told jurors that the trio shouldn’t have stopped and detained Martin, a reported schizophrenic who briefly stopped at the home of Cyrus Harris for a drink of water during an over 20-mile journey from Milledgeville to Sandersville during an extremely hot day in July, according to news outlet WSAV.

“I don’t think there was a crime, enough to stop him for reasonable suspicion,” Durden concluded as reported by several local news stations.

When asked by prosecutor Kelly Weathers “Was Eurie Martin constitutionally entitled to keep walking in your opinion?” Dureden responded, “Yes,” though he agreed Martin had crossed the white line from the shoulder into the roadway, based on photos presented by the defense. 

Deputy Howell encountered Martin after the resident of a home, Cyrus Harris, had refused Martin water and later placed a call with dispatchers stating, “I got a guy walking off the side of the road here, just walked in my yard. I don’t know where he was crazy, drunk or what.”

When Howell approached Martin and called out from his patrol car, Martin said, “Who are you?” and kept walking. Howell called for backup, but continued to follow Martin with his patrol car lights flashing. 

Copeland soon arrived on the scene, where he was then instructed to use his stun gun on Martin. The man fell to the ground but was able to remove the probes and got up and started walking away. 

With Scott now at the scene all three men surrounded Martin. Scott lifted the man’s shirt up and used the stun gun on his back once more. As he fell to the ground Howell and Copeland followed suit and used their weapons. The stun guns were deployed a total of 15 times within four minutes and 17 seconds.

The officers were indicted for felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, false imprisonment, aggravated assault and reckless conduct. 

If convicted of felony murder, “This will be the first time in Georgia history that white officers will be held accountable for a Black person’s murder,” Statesboro attorney Francys Johnson told the Augusta Chronicle. 

Back to top