Former Sheriff’s Deputies Rhett Scott, Michael Howell and Henry Lee Copeland (Washington County, Ga., Sheriff’s Office)

Eurie Lee Martin’s niece figures that when he walked out of his Milledgeville, Ga., group home on July 7, he was headed to see his family for his birthday. Sandersville, Ga., was more than 20 miles away, so it makes sense that he would have stopped by a random house in Deep Step, Ga., during his walk and ask for a glass of water.

A stranger knocking at your door at night isn’t a usual occurrence, so it figures that the homeowner shooed Martin away and called 911. Because Martin suffers from schizophrenia, he seemed unbothered and kept walking when Washington County, Ga., sheriff’s deputies pulled up alongside him and tried to ask him questions.

What no one seems to be able to figure out is why Eurie Lee Martin is now dead.

We know who killed Martin. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on Wednesday, three former Washington County deputies—Henry Lee Copeland, Michael Howell and Rhett Scott—were indicted by a grand jury for the murder of the 58-year-old.

WXGA-TV reports that the three ex-deputies will face charges that include:

  • felony murder with the underlying offense of aggravated assault
  • felony murder with the underlying offense of false imprisonment
  • involuntary manslaughter with the underlying offense of reckless conduct
  • involuntary manslaughter with the underlying offense of simple assault
  • false imprisonment
  • aggravated assault
  • reckless conduct
  • simple assault

Prosecutors already know how Martin died. Martin died of respiratory distress after being tased repeatedly. The deputies called for medical help, but by the time paramedics arrived on the scene, Martin had stopped breathing.

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The situation sounds familiar—a mentally ill man has an encounter with the cops. The man gets violent and attacks the officers. The officers have to restrain the suspect. They arrest him. The end.

Martin’s death probably would have gone down as just another tragic but understandable case of a man who died after law enforcement officers used justifiable force to subdue him. So why are we wondering why Martin is no longer alive? And why are three deputies sworn to protect and serve the public charged with murdering him?

Because, unlike most times this happens, a motorist happened to pass by at the exact time of the incident and captured the incident with his cellphone camera. The video shows Martin backing away from the cops. It shows him writhing on the ground in pain as he is being tased. It shows the officers kneeling on Martin’s body to handcuff him. Police have not released the dashcam video to the public, but the cellphone video doesn’t show Martin punching, kicking or physically attacking the cops in any manner.

But Eurie Lee Martin is still dead, even after the Washington County Sheriff’s Office found that the deputies violated the department’s standard operating procedures. Martin is dead even though all of the officers emerged from the incident without even a scratch on them. Martin is dead despite the fact that District Attorney Hayward Altman said that Martin did nothing to provoke the officers. Martin was tased, handcuffed and placed under arrest before he died, even though a probe by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found that Martin hadn’t broken a single law.

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Eurie Lee Martin is dead.

Still.

And I’m sure you know why.

Read more at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WXGA-TV.