I-TEAM: Is a flashlight a deadly weapon? Sheriff's office's own manual says it could be considered one.
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7
RICHMOND COUNTY, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- The I-Team has uncovered new information in our ongoing investigation into the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.
Deputy Brandon Keathley is serving a 30-day suspension after hitting Deputy Nicholas Nunes in the head with a flashlight.
Nunes received a written reprimand and resigned shortly after.
When Sheriff Richard Roundtree didn't announce criminal charges for the assault, District Attorney Natalie Paine promised to ask a grand jury.
Those hearings are secret until there's a decision.
In the meantime, we're taking a look at the Richmond County Sheriff Office's own policy and procedures when it comes to use of force. Documents from the sheriff’s office show that a flashlight can be considered a deadly weapon.
It says so in the official Richmond County Sheriff’s Office’s Policy and Procedures manual. Our I-Team obtained a copy through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Under section 1.3-1, or the “reasonable force defined” section, it clearly states under impact weapons that it “may be considered deadly force if strikes are directed to the subject’s head or groin area.”
It goes on to say "a flashlight should not be used as an impact weapon."
"This was embarrassing not just to those deputies, but to our agency,” Sheriff Roundtree said during a news conference to discuss the incident involving both deputies several weeks ago.
The Sheriff even showed a flashlight like the one he says Deputy Keathley used. By the time Roundtree held his news conference, we had also confirmed Nunes had to get stitches and staples to close the wound in the back of his head.
It has our I-Team wondering if that policy is written in black and white -- why is there any gray area here?
Even if Nunes first pushed Keathley out of the way like Roundtree says he did, it doesn't change what's written in the Sheriff's own policy and procedures manual.
"This is a calling that is bigger than them, and sometimes they have to put their personal emotions aside, which is a very hard thing to do at times,” Sheriff Roundtree said.
It's also been hard for the family of DeAngelo Burns. He was the 17-year-old receiving aid from Nunes at the Circle K that night on Peach Orchard Road. He didn't make it.
Another Augusta mother says her son came close to that same fate.
We're just using Carmela's first name since the shooter is still out there. We're also not identifying her son -- who was shot in the leg -- or his cousin -- who was shot in the stomach. Carmela's son is just 14 years old and lucky to be alive. He was hit in an artery.
"Within 45 seconds they would have been dead. Yep,” Carmella said.
She says Nunes saved both their lives.
“Whatever he carries or whatever, he had to stick it inside their wound to stop the bleeding,” Carmella said. “He told me he was a Marine, and he was trained in that."
Multiple sources tell our I-Team Nunes carried his own military medical supplies. Specifically, we've learned it's a pack made by Coyote Tactical Solutions. When you buy it, it warns that you "need "necessary training, certifications, and/or authorizations."
Carmella says Nunes used his own tourniquets and combat gauze to stop the bleeding along with his own ACE bandages.
"It was scary. It was scary. It was scary,” Carmella said. “And I just thank him for what he done for the boys."
Sources tell us Nunes has used more than 20 tourniquets in two years. Again – life-saving supplies he buys at his own cost.
"Any other deputy, I don't think they could have did what he did,” Carmella said. “I don't think they could have did what he did."
So let's fast-forward from November to the night of Feb. 7 when Burns was shot. We’re told Nunes had his military medical pack on him that night.
Could it have made a difference? If he wasn't hit in the head with an impact weapon, could the outcome have been different?
It's certainly begs the question.
In the news conference, Sheriff Roundtree said, "At no time was care interrupted as the incident occurred prior to the start of CPR."
Keathley also has a military background. According to his personnel record, he was a military police officer in the Army. He was also an Augusta firefighter before working as a deputy, so he is a certified EMT.
Sources tell our I-Team the deputy in training that night was also experienced in situations like these because he worked for the Highway Patrol in another state before being hired here.