Grand jury finds no excessive force in ‘head-stomping’ arrest
by Jessica Loeding
Jul 12, 2014 | 2393 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A grand jury in June found no excessive force was used in the arrest of an Emerson man in November 2013.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in to investigate claims that officers stepped on the head of Michael Ray West as he lay face-down in his place of business. Agents from the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force and U.S. Marshals were executing warrants for Emerson Police Department on theft by conversion charges.

Surveillance video from inside West’s custom camper top business on Highway 293 showed agents from the DTF and U.S. Marshals enter the darkened business carrying flashlights. Video showed Michael West come down the interior stairs with his hands raised and get down on the ground in the space at the base of the stairs. Officers continued clearing and securing the building at which time it appeared an officer midway through the procession stepped on West’s head.

GBI Public Information Officer Sherry Lang said Thursday the agency closed its investigation and referred inquiries to the Clerk of Superior Court.

“The case file on this investigation was turned over to the DA,” Lang said via email. “The Bartow County Grand Jury heard the case in April.”

The District Attorney’s Office presented the findings to the April term of the grand jury on June 25.

“On June 25, 2014, the District Attorney’s Office presented information to the Bartow County Grand Jury regarding the use of excessive force in the arrest of Michael Ray West and the Cartersville-Bartow County Drug Task Force, Emerson Police Department and the US Marshalls. After reviewing the evidence presented, the April 2014 Grand Jury has determined that excessive force was not used by the Officers or Departments listed above in the arrest of Michael Ray West,” the grand jury finding reads. “Based upon the findings and determination by the Grand Jury, it is the recommendation that the District Attorney take no further action regarding the use of force in this incident.”

The grand jury returned indictments in two separate cases stemming from West’s November arrest. He was indicted on 10 counts of theft by conversion from the original charges. In addition, the grand jury true-billed three counts of obstruction of an officer and three counts of attempted removal of weapon from public official.

According to the bill of indictment, West struggled with three different DTF officers — grabbing one by the genitals and fighting the other two. He then attempted to remove the firearm of one of those agents. West, according to the indictment, then attempted to remove the firearm of a fourth agent and the taser of a fifth.

In November, EPD Chief Stan Bradley said West’s arrest at that time was the third in the preceding 10 months.

West operated a custom camper-top business on Highway 293, which Bradley told The Daily Tribune News West advertised on Craigslist. According to the police chief, West would take down payments for his work but fail to deliver the product.

When EPD arrested West the first time, Bradley said the agency had received 19 complaints. After bonding out, EPD officers confronted West about operating without a business license and continued to receive complaints about the man bilking people of their money. He was arrested again in early October, Bradley said.

As the investigation continued, Bradley said the department received information that led to the use of U.S. Marshals and DTF agents.

“He made a couple of comments that made our investigator feel ... he was agitated with us,” Bradley said in the November interview.

Based on that information and warrants outstanding in other counties, the U.S. Marshal service was contacted and, at their request, DTF officers assisted.

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Michael West previously served more than two years for the sale and distribution of marijuana and violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act in Douglas County.