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Ga. Chief Vindicates Officer in Confrontation

Glynn County Police Officer Kevin Jones, who is seen on a video posted online appearing to throw a woman to the ground during an arrest in the St. Simons Island Pier Village, is back on full duty today after Chief Matt Doering ruled that Jones acted reasonably to stop an assault by the woman.

Doering began an internal affairs investigation of the incident Wednesday, after seeing the video the day before. The incident was recorded Dec. 5 by a civilian bystander and posted on YouTube, a video sharing website, by a person with the user name "nick james."

Jones was given non-law enforcement administrative duties, which Doering said is a form of administrative leave with pay, when the investigation began.

In the video, Jones is seen with another officer, Anthony Sermons, escorting Kathleen Mary Allegrone, 70, of St. Simons Island, from an SUV to a police vehicle, where they attempted to arrest her for allegedly drinking and driving. The SUV she was driving had allegedly run into the rear of a vehicle at the intersection of Mallery Street and Kings Way.

While walking her to the police car, Allegrone appears in the video to resist the officers by making her body rigid and pushing back into them. She also yells "no" and "you're hurting my arm" while being escorted.

Once at the police vehicle, Jones appears to throw Allegrone to the pavement in the video. Immediately afterward, Jones and Sermons lean over her to talk to her and sit her upright, in what appears to be a calm manner.

Doering said in a written report released Saturday that his investigation looked at all the evidence available to him to decide if Jones' action was justified and if he acted appropriately in his use of force. What Doering said he found were several points not shown in the online video that has been viewed nearly 200,000 times since it was posted Tuesday.

"The totality of circumstances is not typically afforded from the mere viewing of a video or from the individual perspective of a witness," Doering wrote. "Camera angle, clarity, quality and point of view of witnesses does not lend the opportunity for a fully informed judgment as to the actions of an officer or others. I have thoroughly reviewed this incident and find that Officer Kevin Jones acted reasonably."

Doering said video from the dashboard camera in the police car parked behind Allegrone's SUV shows her making an obscene gesture to Jones and Sermon as they attempt to talk to her after the accident. Doering said she locked herself in her vehicle, requiring police to use a lock-picking device to get her out of it.

When Jones reached across Allegrone from the passenger side of the SUV to unlock the driver's side, Doering said Allegrone made her first assault on him.

"As Officer Jones reached for the unlock mechanism, Ms. Allegrone grabbed Officer Jones' left hand, squeezing and twisting her fingernails very hard into his hand, digging into his skin causing sharp pain," Doering wrote.

Jones managed to unlock the driver's side door and push Allegrone out of the vehicle to where Sermons was standing.

"While in the car with Ms. Allegrone, Officer Jones smelled a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage that, combined with her rear-ending a vehicle, combative and assaultive behavior, led him to believe she was driving while impaired," Doering wrote.

When Jones attempted to put handcuffs on Allegrone after he and Sermons had walked her to the back of a parked police car, Doering said she began "squeezing very hard while twisting her fingernails into Officer Jones' hand and wrist while simultaneously turning her body toward him."

Jones thought the sharp digging and cutting into his skin could have involved more than fingernails, so he used a defensive tactic to stop the assault and maintain control of Allegrone, Doering said.

"He did so by making a split-second decision to immediately turn his body in the same direction as Ms. Allegrone was turning, while pulling his hand away from her, and in using her turning momentum, he grabbed her shoulder and pushed her rapidly forward and down to the ground as one continuing movement. Once on the ground Ms. Allegrone cooperated and was hand-cuffed without further resistance," Doering said. "Had he not reacted decisively, Ms. Allegrone would have continued to jeopardize the officer's safety, and others, with her assaultive behavior."

Doering said deep cuts on Jones' hand required medical attention and will likely leave permanent scars.

He has also said that Allegrone refused medical treatment or examination at the scene and is seen in a booking photo at the Glynn County Detention Center with blood on her face and an apparent abrasion on the bridge of her nose. It is unclear what the extent her injuries may have been.

Allegrone was booked Dec. 6 at the Glynn County Detention Center on charges of driving under the influence and obstruction of an officer through the use of violence or threats. She was released later that day on $7,558 bail.

Lawyer Robert Crowe, who is representing her on the DUI and obstruction charges, has said he does not comment on pending cases and that he is unaware if she would file a lawsuit.

As of Friday, Doering said Allegrone had not filed a complaint against Jones or the department.

Attempts by The News this past week to reach Allegrone at her home were unsuccessful.

Glynn County Police Officer Kevin Jones is not related to the Brunswick Police Department public information officer who is also named Kevin Jones.

Copyright 2013 - The Brunswick News, Ga.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service