WOODSTOCK, Ga. – The wife of a Roswell police sergeant facing domestic violence charges says it's all due to a haunting memory of a gruesome murder scene that's driven her husband to alcoholism and physical abuse.
In the early hours of Thanksgiving morning, Cherokee County officers responded to Sgt. Chad Harris' home after getting a 911 call from his son reporting the Harris was assaulting the boy's mother. When they got there, officers heard screaming and loud banging sounds, prompting them to draw their weapons.
The son told police Harris had come home that night and drank 10 beers before arguing about the house being a mess. Harris denied being physical in the argument; however, the son reported Harris had a history of being belligerent and hitting his wife and children.
New information, though, reveals that those alleged actions could stem from a gruesome case the Roswell officer worked during his time with the department.
According to the arrest report for Harris, his wife told officers the family violence had been ongoing ever since Harris was involved in the investigation into the case of two teens – Natalie Henderson and Carter Davis – found murdered behind a Roswell grocery store in August 2016. Jeffery Hazelwood later pleaded guilty – but mentally ill – to the killings.
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She described how Harris had been drinking more heavily and become more physical over the past year. She also detailed how she had walked in on her husband with a weapon in what was described as a "self-harm" incident. It sparked a struggle, but the report states the weapon was not pointed at her.
11Alive's Ryan Kruger spoke to one local therapist who said this type of situation is not uncommon. According to Eddie Reece, police and first responders are often the ones who need PTSD counseling the most, yet they're some of the least likely to seek out help.
The statistics are sobering.
According to research, nearly one-fifth of all police officers have PTSD-like symptoms. To make matters worse, according to the group "Badge of Life," between 100 to 150 officers commit suicide each year. PTSD is the most common contributor.
Vincent Champion, the southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers said PTSD is a much bigger problem among law enforcement than officers want to admit.
Champion said officers will tend to say they're "stressed" rather than admit they have a bigger problem. It's also not a matter of the resources not being available, he said - they're there - but officers just have to use them.
"Officers who may have PTSD are afraid that if they seek help, they may lose their job," he said.
Champion added, however, that PTSD should not be used as a scapegoat to excuse domestic violence, though studies have shown incidents of family violence are more common among police families.
Vincent Hill is a former police officer and private investigator who's worked horrific crime scenes. 11Alive asked him how the trauma on the job affects him off the job.
"You see a lot in police. You see kids being abused. You see kids killed," Hill said. "There's a lot that I wish I could forget, but I don't think I ever will."
Hill says at the beginning of his career he found himself reaching for alcohol to calm his nerves. Family members helped push him to relieve stress in other ways.
"After the alcohol what do you do? I had to find a different avenue, like the gym," he said. "To this day, I might remember something and then run to the top of Stone Mountain to clear my head. That's how you have to do it."
Harris was arrested and charged with simple battery, battery and two counts of cruelty to children. He was released on a $4,500 bond and ordered to stay away from his family. He was placed on administrative leave with pay while the department investigates the circumstances of his arrest.