ATHENS, Ga. - A man who pled guilty to reaching for a gun when confronted by an officer was released days ago on probation, in a move law enforcement leaders call disheartening and "appalling" to those who protect and serve.
Justin Tremell Scott pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of simple assault, reckless conduct, obstructing a police officer and carrying a weapon without a license, and was given credit for 12 months served since his 2016 encounter with a police officer.
Scott's mother, Sherri Scott, said Justin had "no intention of shooting an officer".
On April 23, 2016, Athens-Clarke County Police said Officer David Kelley confronted Justin Tremell Scott outside the Golden Pantry convenience store as he witnessed two men in a car pour liquor in a cup. Upon confronting Scott, the body camera video released shows Scott putting his hand on his gun; the officer firing twice, striking Scott in the face once. Kelley pursued Scott for some time and even deployed a stun gun, before other officers could aid and arrest Scott.
The GBI was asked to investigate the officer-involved shooting and cleared Kelley of any charges. The Athens-Clarke County District Attorney Ken Mauldin said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took out a warrant against Scott for felony aggravated assault, but Mauldin chose not to indict Scott on that charge.
Mauldin said, in a phone interview with FOX 5, although Scott can be seen reaching for the gun, the weapon was never pointed at the officer; he also said, in his years of practice, a charge of aggravated assault could never apply to someone who simply put their hand on a weapon.
A spokesperson said the chief of the Athens-Clarke County Police would not comment on the plea deal, but said the department respects the judicial system.
The Executive Director of Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, Frank Rotondo, said a disturbing message is sent to criminals when a minimal penalty is given to someone who threatens the lives of police officers.
"The reduction of the charge to a simple assault is concerning... I find it appalling," Rotondo said, who believes it has become increasingly difficult to prosecute and penalize people who threaten and assault officers.
"It's pretty demoralizing for law enforcement officials in today's day and age," he said. Rotondo tells FOX 5, violence against officers is one of the reasons recruitment has been challenging for police agencies.