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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Officer Jerad Wheeler: Kicking Stomach in Dekalb County

     In response to a child custody dispute, Dekalb County police officer Jerad Wheeler, at 6:30 PM on December 12, 2011, pulled up to Darrius Usher's house in Tucker, Georgia. Kiera Wade and Usher were fighting over their son, Jamal. The mother had come to the house to take the boy home, but Usher wasn't cooperating. The cursing and shouting father, instead of calming down and speaking to officer Wheeler, walked away from him toward the back of the dwelling. As a second police officer rolled up to the scene, the father's aunt entered the house, fetched the boy, and carried him to his mother's car. This infuriated Usher who stormed out of the house onto the front porch. He was carrying, in his right hand, a length of metal pipe. "You're gonna have to take me to jail," he shouted.

     Reaching for his sidearm, officer Wheeler instructed Usher to drop the weapon. The angry father released the pipe, then charged toward the car occupied by Kiera and his son. Wheeler fired two taser prongs into Usher's back, causing him to collapse before reaching the vehicle.

     The subduing of the out-of-control father should have ended this disturbance. But as is often the case in situations like this, a family member couldn't leave well enough alone. As the second officer placed Mr. Usher into handcuffs, the arrestee's sister, Raven Dozier, got into the act by screaming at officer Wheeler. As the big woman moved toward him, the young officer, on three occasions, told her to "get back." She ignored his commands, and when Dozier got within three feet of him, he employed a so-called front push kick to her stomach.

     In Wheeler's incident report, he wrote: "The kick was a front push kick to the abdomen as I was taught to do in the [police] academy. After this, she stayed back." Dozier returned to the house.

     Wheeler placed Mr. Usher into his patrol car, and accompanied by his partner, walked into the dwelling to arrest Raven Dozier. At this point, another member of the family told Wheeler that he had kicked the stomach of a woman who was more than 8 months pregnant. According to Wheeler's report: "At the time of the alteration it was very dark and Ms. Dozier had a large shirt on. I could not tell by the sight of her at the time that she was pregnant."

     Complaining of stomach pains, Dozier asked to see a doctor. Officer Wheeler called for an ambulance, and followed the emergency vehicle to the hospital where a physician noted a contusion and some spotting on her abdomen. From the hospital, Wheeler transported Dozier to the Dekalb County Jail. When personnel at the lockup refused to take this prisoner into custody due to medical concerns, Wheeler informed Dozier that she would be charged with obstruction and disorderly conduct. She could expect to receive her court date in the mail. In the meantime, her brother had been booked into the Dekalb County Jail on the charge of disorderly conduct.

     Shortly after the domestic disturbance, Raven Dozier filed a complaint with the police department's internal affairs office. Four of officer Wheeler's supervisors, and an internal affairs detective, reviewed the case, and concluded that Wheeler's front push kick fell within the agency's use of force policy.

     Two weeks after being kicked in the stomach, Dozier, following an emergency c-section, gave birth to a healthy baby. The criminal charges against Dozier were dropped.

     In May 2012, Raven Dozier's attorney, Marr Bullman, filed a civil suit against Jared Wheeler and the Dekalb County Police Department. In speaking to a reporter, attorney Bullman said, "This officer is just another loose cannon. And I don't know how a 180-pound pregnant woman comes at you 'aggressively.'" (A description Wheeler used in his incident report.) Bullman claimed that Wheeler had arrested his client out of a need to establish justification for the stomach kick in the event something happened to the baby.

     If Raven Dozier's lawsuit ever goes to trial, Wheeler's short history as a police officer might become an issue. Reportedly, in September 2011, a 53-year-old woman complained that Wheeler had twisted her arm while shoving her into a patrol car. A few months later, pursuant to a 911 call, Wheeler allegedly went to the wrong address where he shot a leashed dog.

     While a 9 month pregnant woman has no business confronting a police officer in a domestic dispute involving someone else, officer Wheeler should not have kicked a woman, pregnant or not, in the stomach. I'm guessing that the law suit will be settled for a relatively small amount, and that Wheeler will be fired. All the characters in this story are either villains or fools. 

3 comments:

  1. "All the characters in this story are either villains or fools.".

    Good call! Across the board, and in all directions!

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  2. All the characters in this story are either villains or fools?.......including the author who wrote this. Article.

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  3. Perhaps both the officer and the author are young men, too inexperienced with and thus ignorant of the behavioral patterns of pregnant women. Both should be better trained - one in use of force, the other in due diligence.

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