Arrest procedure of paralyzed man questioned

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April 30, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Only on 12, a questionable arrest caught on tape. Neighbors claim deputies mistreated a man in a wheelchair.

News 12 took the tape to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office to see if any rules were broken.

The sheriff's office says there are guidelines for arresting people who are disabled. Neighbors in cherry tree crossing question whether those guidelines were followed.

Andrea Dawson heard shouting and screaming outside her door. She grabbed her video camera and saw deputies arresting Steve Mikel, her neighbor, who is paralyzed from the waist down.

"His legs out the car, his whole body out the car. Now he's literally on the floor," she said, describing what she saw. "The rock is on the other side pulling him in. Now his legs dangling again. They don't even care anything when they shut the door. Then they fall back out, they throwing him in the car again. Now the rock is on the other side, pushing his face in."

She says Mikel asked for an ambulance since he can't sit up on his own.

We asked Col. Gary Powell if Mikel should have gotten extra help.

"If you get someone who's actually immobilized and you can spot it, they will call and the ambulance will ride them down here to the jail," Col. Powell said.

He says some decisions depend on the situation, like the type of crime and cooperation from the person being arrested.

"We use only the force necessary to make the arrest."

But Andrea and many of her neighbors say Mikel never resisted arrest, and the way they put him in the police car was not necessary.

"He laying face down on his stomach with the catheter in front of him. He got a catheter bag," Andrea said.

Powell says he's not sure the deputies did anything wrong since he doesn't know all the details. He is looking into their disciplinary records for us.

Steve Mikel was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge for an alleged dispute he had with a neighbor.

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