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Former Georgia Deputy's Termination Upheld

Former Bibb County deputy Clayton Sutton will appeal an administrative law judge's ruling that has upheld his termination.

His lawyer, Arthur Phillips, said he is drafting a writ that will be filed in Bibb County Superior Court requesting that a judge there review the case and the administrative law judge's findings.

Phillips said Sutton remains unemployed.

The judge's ruling, signed Aug. 13, provides a glimpse of what transpired during the closed hearing held July 14:

Sutton, a Macon police officer prior to Macon and Bibb County consolidating in January, had been in law enforcement for eight years prior to his June 6 termination.

On March 31, 2014, Sutton was assigned to the training division following an shooting incident involving a dog that was under investigation. He was instructed to perform administrative duties only and not to engage in any law enforcement functions.

On June 4, Sutton was driving home from work when he spotted a vehicle pulled into a wooded area with two men putting metal objects into the trunk.

Suspecting criminal activity, Sutton stopped at a distance and watched the men. He called dispatch and asked for an on-duty officer to come investigate.

Before another officer could arrive, the men left and Sutton followed them for several miles until they stopped at a stop sign and one man got out of the vehicle.

Sutton got out of his vehicle, with his gun drawn, and told the man to get on the ground. he ordered two men still in the vehicle to get out of the car and he detained the three until deputies arrived.

Sheriff David Davis deemed Sutton's actions as violating the directive prohibiting him from engaging in law enforcement functions and he was fired for insubordination.

During the July hearing, Sutton and his lawyer argued that he didn't do anything that any private citizen could not do under Georgia law to enact a "citizen's arrest."

Sutton also argued that the definition of "law enforcement functions" was unclear and he didn't know what activities he was forbidden from performing.

The judge found that Sutton's actions clearly fell within any reasonable definition of "law enforcement functions" and that he was not "similarly situated to a private citizen" who would perform a citizen's arrest.

Assistant County Attorney Opie Bowen said the ruling wasn't subject to release until 10 days after the judge's decision. The disclosure date fell on Saturday when county offices were closed.

Sutton fell under scrutiny in December 2012 when he shot and killed Sammie "Junebug" Davis Jr. in the Kroger parking lot on Pio Nono Avenue after Davis attacked him. The shooting was later ruled to have been justified.

Bibb County deputies requested that the GBI look into Sutton's actions on the day he wounded a dog in March while pursing suspects on Cherry Avenue.

One of the men claimed Sutton got out of his car with his gun drawn, fired shots at the barking dog and also shot toward the men, injuring Shawn Taylor, then 42.

Sutton claimed the man was hurt when he was ordered to the ground and suffered an abrasion on his knee.

Over several weeks, GBI agents and crime scene investigators examined all of the evidence in the case, including forensics from the location.

Thursday, the GBI turns over the results of their investigation to Bibb District Attorney David Cooke and Sheriff David Davis.

"We don't take a position," said J.T. Ricketson, special agent in charge of the Perry office of the GBI. "We just present what we've got."

Cooke will determine if any laws were broken and Davis will check to see if Sutton violated any department policy in that incident.

Ricketson said the reviews of officer-involved shootings can also help departments hone training to avoid similar incidents.

Writer Liz Fabian contributed to this story. Check back at macon.com for more on this story.

Copyright 2014 - The Macon Telegraph

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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