A former Georgia police officer was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after being found guilty of felony murder earlier this month in the Taser death of 24-year-old Gregory Towns in 2014, 11Alive reports.
Former East Point Police Sgt. Marcus Eberhart was found guilty of all counts, which included felony murder and aggravated assault. His colleague, former Police Cpl. Howard Weems, was also convicted in Towns' death and sentenced to five years in prison, with 18 months to serve.
According to the news station, Weems was found not guilty of felony murder and not guilty of aggravated assault but was convicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and violation of oath of office. However, according to 11Alive, Weems will be allowed to be with his family for the holidays, having been ordered to return to court Jan. 2 to begin his sentence.
Officers were responding to a domestic violence call April 11, 2014, when Towns began to run from officers. After being caught and handcuffed, Towns said he was too tired to walk to the patrol car as instructed. Both Eberhart and Weems then used their Tasers to shock Towns multiple times in order to get him to comply, 11Alive notes. Towns became unresponsive and died shortly afterward.
"It's like I'm doing a life sentence of hurting. So I just ask that today, you take into consideration that these officers took an oath to serve and protect our community," Towns' girlfriend, Aisha Smith, said, holding the hand of their son while speaking in court before the judge ruled on Weems' sentence.
According to 11Alive, the child was only 3 months old when Smith made the 911 call that would end Towns' life. Smith said that she has lived with guilt ever since. She says that their son has already started to ask about his dad.
"It's going to make the story a little easier for me to tell him one day, because they didn't get away with it," she said.
Prosecutors argued that the use of the Taser was violation of policy and that Towns was already handcuffed at the time and having a hard time breathing when stunned. Repeatedly having a Taser used on him, prosecutors said, was enough to kill him.
The defense countered that Towns' death was caused by a rare sickle cell trait and had nothing to do with the use of Tasers, and that the officers were within their rights to use the devices because Towns was noncompliant.
Read more at 11Alive.