LAMAR COUNTY, Ga. - A video making the rounds on social media shows Lamar County Sheriff’s Sergeant Shannon Williamson kicking a suspect as he arrives to help others officers.
On the video, shared with FOX 5 News by a viewer, a woman is heard expressing her shock.
“Oh my god, he’s kicking him, he didn’t have to kick him, he didn’t have to kick him like that,” she said.
The video quickly gained traction on social media, where many were outraged at what they perceived to be a case of excessive force.
The incident occurred around 11:30 Wednesday morning outside Reliable Mart where Richard Barber is a regular customer.
“Yes, I’ve seen the video. I didn’t see any reason for kicking him. It seemed like he was subdued so that was kind of, I think it was kind of extreme,” said Barber.
Major Leslie Holmes with the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office told FOX 5 News an internal investigation is underway.
“We are checking out the reasons for the kick itself, if it was for ill intent or if it was to gain control,” said Major Holmes.
She said it appears Williamson was trying to get the suspect, 30-year-old Caweisi Lavelle, flat on the ground to put both his arms into handcuffs.
“It appears that it was it was possibly to get him flat to gain control while he had the one handcuff that was bobbing around slinging,” said Major Holmes.
The incident started inside Reliable Mart where a deputy, getting something to drink, recognized Lavelle who had an outstanding warrant for obstruction of an officer, aggravated assault, and other felony charges from another county.
Apurva Patel, who works at the store, saw the scuffle between Lavelle and two Lamar County deputies.
“He was tough, OK. The two cops tried to handle him but he was really tough. It wasn’t so easy,” said Patel.
Store video shows two officers first approaching Lavelle in a car then struggling to arrest him for about 45 seconds before back up was called in.
Sgt. Williamson, who arrived with other deputies, has never had any complaints filed against him. He has since been placed on paid administrative leave, facing an internal investigation.
“The outcome itself won’t be determined until we have all the investigation itself in one spot and we’ve completed the investigation,” said Major Holmes.
Richard Barber applauded the transparency of the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office but was glad someone recorded the incident.
“A picture is worth a thousand words if the video hadn’t been there, my word against yours,” said Barber.
Lavelle was being held at the Lamar County Jail as of Wednesday evening.
One of the two deputies involved in the first scuffle with Lavelle was treated and released from the hospital.
Major Holmes said despite the chatter on social media, no one called them or came to the sheriff’s office to complain about the incident.