Richard Russell, Leslie Gaiter, Parker Leathers and Christopher Brown, four deputies with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department have returned to duty since they were placed on leave after their roles in an arrest following a traffic stop in Augusta, Georgia, left a Black man dead.
Jermaine Jones lingered in a coma at Augusta University Medical Center for nearly a week before his death this month after suffering severe brain injuries as he was taken into custody on Oct. 11.
Investigator Russell and deputies Leathers, Gaiter, and Brown were placed on paid administrative leave while the Richmond County Coroner’s Office investigates the series of events that took place after deputies stopped the black SUV that the 24-year-old had been riding in on the day of the incident.
WRDW reported that the sheriff’s agency said Brown saw the vehicle and approached it because of a tinted license plate cover. Soon afterward, more deputies arrived on the scene, including Leathers, Russell, and Gaiter, who was recently involved in another use-of-force-related incident.
Jones’ uncle had been driving and allowed the officers to search the vehicle, during which a police dog found a 9mm Glock 26 handgun and crack pipe in the back seat where Jones had been sitting.
Already on probation for a prior violation, the 24-year-old took off running. According to documents obtained by the news station, Russell tased the young man and deputies were able to subdue Jones after what they labeled as a “brief struggle.”
The victim’s father, Jermaine Jones Sr., told WXFG, “They started swinging on him, hitting him, hitting his body parts in the head and stuff. He wasn’t resisting. They was all on his stomach. He said he couldn’t breathe.”
Jones’ mother Keyana Gaines, “just wants answers,” telling the outlet she’s still waiting to see the body camera footage.
Jones experienced what officials called a “medical emergency” in the back of the squad car en route to the county jail and was taken to the hospital. Jones reportedly had extensive brain injuries when doctors placed him in a medically induced coma. He was declared dead on Monday, Oct. 18.
The case was turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for a use of force investigation. A spokesperson for the agency told reporters that the investigation was “active and ongoing” despite all four individuals returning to duty. Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen also revealed that the autopsy for Jones is not complete.
The victim is the only one so far to be charged. Jones was hit with one felony count of possession of a firearm by a first offender and one misdemeanor count of obstruction.