EAST POINT, Ga. -- A former East Point police officer found guilty of felony murder was sentenced Wednesday.
Former Sgt. Marcus Eberhart was sentenced to life in prison for the 2014 death of 24-year-old Gregory Towns. The jury found Eberhart guilty on all counts, including felony murder and aggravated assault.
Former Cpl. Howard Weems was also convicted in Towns' death and sentenced to five years in prison with 18 months to serve. Weems was found not guilty of felony murder, and not guilty of aggravated assault, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and violation of oath of office.
Before the judge ruled on Weems' sentence, Towns' girlfriend Aisha Smith spoke, holding the hand of their son.
"It's like I'm doing a life sentence of hurting. So I just ask that today, you take into consideration that these officers took an oath to serve and protect our community," said Smith.
Their son was only 3 months old when she made the 911 call that would lead to Towns' death. Smith says she's lived with the guilt ever since, but hopes now she will be able to forgive herself and move forward. She says their son has already started to ask about his father.
"It's going to make the story a little easier for me to tell him one day, because they didn't get away with it."
Towns was tired and handcuffed when two officers tasered him repeatedly.
When officers responded to the domestic violence call on April 11, 2014, Towns began to run from officers. After being caught and handcuffed, Towns claimed he was too tired to walk to the officers' patrol car, as instructed. Eberhart and Weems then used their tasers on Towns, in an effort to get him to comply. Officials say Towns became unresponsive and died a short time later.
PHOTOS | Gregory Towns
The jury returned the verdict at the end of its first full day of deliberations after a four-day trial.
The prosecution said that the Taser use was a violation of policy; Towns was handcuffed at the time and Towns was having a hard time breathing when stunned. The state argued that repeatedly tasing was enough to kill him.
Photos | East Point officers on trial
The defense argued that Towns’ death was actually caused by an illness, a rare sickle cell trait, that had nothing to do with the tasing. They also argued officers were within their rights to tase him, because he'd been non-compliant, he'd run from police and the Taser was the only way to get him to follow police commands.
In court, several family members spoke on Weems behalf, asking for mercy in his sentence.
"For the past three years, I haven't seen him smile," said his cousin Loletha Hale. "I haven't seen him smile."
Weems himself expressed his condolences and tried to explain his actions.
"I had no knowledge of any prior medical condition with Mr. Towns. And what has stuck in my mind, which has nearly caused insanity, is that not one time did he mention that he was in medical distress. Not one time did he ask for any medical attention," said Weems.
Weems is allowed to remain free with his family for the holidays. He is ordered to return to court at 10 am on January 2 to begin his sentence.
Smith was outraged by the decision.
"I'm just going to leave it in His (God's) hands. I'm going to stay strong for the family and for my kids and for myself."