Jermaine Jones Jr. was riding down Highland Avenue in Augusta, Ga., with his father and uncle on Oct. 11, when Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies pulled them over. Investigator Christopher Brown spotted their black SUV and decided to stop them for a tinted license plate cover. Shortly after, more officers arrived on the scene, including deputies Leslie Gaiter, Parker Leathers and Richard Russell.
Jones’ uncle, who was driving and owned the car, allowed the officers to search the vehicle. A police dog that came with one of the deputies smelled narcotics. The three men were ordered out of the car and a 9mm Glock 26 handgun and crack pipe were found in the backseat where Jones was sitting.
Jones, who was on probation for a previous crime, ran.
The deputies chased after him, Officer Russell tased him, and according to his father, Jones was beaten while the deputies cuffed him. The police report, obtained by WRDW, called it a “brief struggle.”
“They started swinging on him, hitting him, hitting his body parts in the head and stuff,” Jermaine Jones Sr. told WXFG. “He wasn’t resisting. They was all on his stomach. He said he couldn’t breathe.” When he last saw his son, Jones was being ushered into a police car. He was conscious and talking.
WXFG reports that Jones experienced what officials called a “medical emergency” in the back of the squad car while on the way to the county jail and was taken to the hospital. The 24-year-old had extensive brain injuries and was in critical condition when he arrived. The doctors placed him in a medically induced coma, but his family would never hear him talk again.
Jones died at 2:08 p.m. on Monday at Augusta University Medical Center.
Now the four deputies have been placed on leave pending an investigation into Jones’ arrest and death.
WFXG reports that the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has now turned the case over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for a use of force investigation. In its first public statement on Tuesday, GBI revealed that Jones was charged with one felony count of possession of a firearm by a first offender and one misdemeanor count of obstruction.
In a statement to WFXG on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the GBI said that at the conclusion of the investigation it will turn over its findings to the Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for review.
This isn’t Officer Gaiter’s first time having his name in the news for questionable police tactics.
According to WRDW, Officer Gaiter was caught in a viral social media video with several other deputies wrestling and punching two men during an arrest in August. Officers approached the two men in their vehicle and claimed they smelled marijuana before the altercation. A woman was recording the scuffle, but was rushed by a deputy and knocked over during the fight. She broke her arm, WRDW notes, and officials claim she tripped. This incident is also under an internal investigation.
“I just want answers ... because nobody’s child deserves that,” Keyana Gaines, Jones’ mom, told WRDW. She, like the rest of us, is waiting to see the body and dash camera footage that will show how her son ended up on life support after a “brief struggle”