A Pooler man has filed a lawsuit accusing a Chatham sheriff’s deputy of using excessive force during an arrest in Effingham County, kicking him and breaking his jaw and back.
Anthony Oliver also accuses deputy Franklin R. Rollins Jr., who was acting as a U.S. Marshal during the Jan. 23 arrest, of striking his vehicle twice, totaling it and throwing Oliver’s body camera into a pond.
Oliver said he had a body camera because he used it when he was a process server in California.
Oliver said the body camera was retrieved from the pond at the arrest site on Ga. 30 just north of Shellie Helmey Road in the Guyton area. Video from it shows someone grabbing the camera when Oliver is being arrested and throwing it into water.
“The video proves he (Rollins) was angry and it proves that he had something to hide,” said Craig Bonnell, Oliver’s attorney. “If there had been no misconduct, why get rid of the camera?”
Rollins did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Chatham Sheriff John Wilcher said Oliver has “mental issues.” “We did an internal investigation,” Wilcher said. “Everything he alleges is untrue.”
Wilcher said he doesn’t know anything about Oliver’s body camera being thrown into and recovered from a pond. “We had it in our evidence room,” he said.
Oliver said two members of the Chatham Sheriff’s Office told him that inmates were used to recover the camera from the pond. He said the Chatham Sheriff’s Office returned the camera and video footage to him.
Bonnell said deputies from the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office were on the scene when Oliver was arrested and their dash cams should show Rollins kicking Oliver and throwing his body camera into a pond.
Bonnell said the Effingham Sheriff’s Office has not yet turned over video that would show the arrest.
“If Effingham can’t or won’t produce that video, it almost doesn’t make a difference,” Bonnell said. “It won’t to a jury.”
Oliver, 35, was arrested on a California warrant for missing an $81 payment on a drunken driving fine. Oliver said he already had been arrested twice on the same warrant regarding the $81 fine, spending about two weeks in the Chatham jail each time.
Oliver said he was late paying the fee because he was busy moving and dealing with Hurricane Matthew and it slipped his mind.
He said he had a court date of Feb. 13 on the issue and didn’t know there was a warrant for his arrest on the same topic on Jan. 23.
The incident started at 9 a.m. Jan. 23, when Oliver pulled off of Ga. 21 in Port Wentworth to deal with a puppy he had in the car. A black pickup truck rammed his vehicle, causing “extreme” damage.
He said he got out of his car and saw the driver of the pickup pull a firearm on him. He said the man never identified himself as being in law enforcement and did not use sirens or lights on his vehicle.
Oliver got back in his car and drove off, calling 911 to report that he was being followed by a man with a gun in a black pickup truck. He said the 911 dispatcher told him not to pull over while she checked who might be following him.
Oliver turned on his emergency flashers and drove very slowly. After a few minutes, the dispatcher said the man in the pickup truck was a U.S. Marshal and Oliver should pull over for him.
He did, but before he completely stopped, Rollins rammed Oliver’s car, totaling it.
Oliver said Rollins did not use a siren or flashing lights. He said several other law enforcement vehicles, which did have sirens and lights operating, joined the chase just as the dispatcher was telling him to pull over.
Oliver got out of the car and got on the ground, as Rollins and other law enforcement officers ordered him to do. He said Rollins kicked him with steel-toed boots, ripped off Oliver’s body camera and threw it into a pond that was beside the arrest scene.
The lawsuit says Effingham sheriff’s deputies stood by and did nothing as Oliver was beaten.
Oliver said he repeatedly asked for medical help, but it was nine hours before he saw a doctor at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court is against Rollins, Chatham and Effingham counties, their sheriffs and 10 unidentified law enforcement officers who were on hand during the arrest. It asks for compensatory and punitive damages, legal fees, additional training of law enforcement officers, an FBI criminal investigation and federal grand jury indictments on civil rights violations.
Meanwhile, Oliver had a $3,500 English bulldog puppy in his car, which has disappeared. Oliver said a witness told him that a woman in a black SUV took the dog, which was named “Dolly.”
Wilcher said he doesn’t know anything about Oliver’s puppy.
Oliver said his 2016 Volkswagen Jetta was totaled and his insurance won’t pay for it because it happened during a police chase.