LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. -- A teacher accused of grabbing a student by the throat and slamming him onto a lunchroom table in Lumpkin County appeared in court on Tuesday claiming that the student initiated the attack.
Now, video of the scene is being released that could help the court decide what really happened that day. The actual fight happened on April 19, 2017, at the Lumpkin County Alternative School. A report filed by a county deputy partially describes what he saw after reviewing the same video.
Cpt. Sewell arrived at the county board of education and, after watching the video, wrote that he witnessed a teacher, identified as Tim Garner, grab a student by the throat and slam him onto the lunchroom table.
The report states that this was preceded by two students flipping a Styrofoam container back and forth between two tables. That container eventually opened, spilling on one of the tables after which Garner is seen saying something to the students. Immediately after that, every one of them gets up to leave except for one student.
A second student who tried to walk out is stopped by Garner who pushes him back. That's where the incident apparently escalates.
"[The unnamed student] stepped back from the shove. Garner charges him and takes him down onto the tabletop with his right hand around [the student's] throat," the report states. "[The student] fights the whole time and seems to be yelling. Garner takes [the student] down the length of the table with his hand on his throat."
The report of the video goes on to say that when Garner gets the teen to the end of the table, he puts him in a headlock and lets go a few seconds later.
The student appears to be yelling at Garner at this point and walks around the room, exits and then comes back in to yell more. He leaves one final time according to Captain Sewell's report. At least two students and a paraprofessional, Kim Grizzle, witnessed some or all of the fight.
After meeting with Sewell and reviewing the video, the student's family and their attorney, Zack Tumlin, agreed that they would be pressing charges.
The student also later spoke to Sewell about that altercation, claiming that Garner had told him and the other student to stay back. The student said he was leaving so that he could get salad dressing out of his hair. That's when he said he was pushed back and grabbed by the teacher.
The student said that he'd never been in a fight with Garner before but had arguments in the past. He told Sewell that he hadn't been in an argument when the fight broke out.
Now, over a year later, the student's attorney is calling out allegations that his client started the fight.
"Coach Garner’s assertions that my client is a troubled and violent youth is absurd, as is the assertion that my client initiated any contact with him," Tumlin said. "The truth of the matter, as the video clearly shows, is that Coach Garner decided to subdue and choke a child for almost 50 seconds as a method of exercising discretionary discipline for a minor infraction in the lunchroom."
He added that school system attorneys have since made attempts to dismiss Garner's liability under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
"We believe we can overcome in court if necessary," he said.
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