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Family calls for excessive force investigation on Washington County Sheriff’s deputy

Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 11:42 PM EST
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WASHINGTON COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - An Eastern Carolina family is seeking an excessive force investigation, accusing a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy of harassing a man under arrest for marijuana possession.

Sheriff John Barnes wasn’t able to share the name of the accused deputy but confirms a full investigation— including the gathering of witness statements and body camera footage— is underway.

Early Wednesday morning Francis Gilliam was awoken by a call from her son, Gary Thomas.

“I said this isn’t going to be no George Floyd. I kept saying that,” said Gilliam. “I repeated it.”

Thomas told his mother he was arrested by Washington County Sheriff’s deputies after being caught in possession of marijuana.

As his family watched his arrest, they say it quickly became violent.

“But I didn’t never go nowhere because I didn’t want to see my son hurt or in danger,” said Gilliam, “and as a mother, you feel for your child. I don’t care if he is grown, they are your kids.”

Thomas’ girlfriend, Caressil Goddard, was with him when he was initially arrested. She says they were in Martin County.

When she got to the Washington County courthouse to meet Thomas’ mother and aunt, she started recording the altercation.

She says she saw deputies with a knee on Thomas’ neck. His aunt then tried to intervene and was arrested during the altercation with deputies.

She says she wanted accountability.

“Now everybody can see how it goes down here,” said Goddard. “They drug him all the way back to the door and still dragged him and his head hit the building. Then, he was knocked out for a minute.”

Thomas went to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville the day after his release from jail complaining of headaches.

WITN sat down with District Attorney Seth Edwards and showed him the cell phone video for the first time.

While Edwards was not able to comment on the matter, he assured the issue would be fully investigated by his office after being provided witness testimony and other body or surveillance camera footage.

Referring to the arrest, Gilliam said, “That just messed me up to be honest with you. I couldn’t even get no sleep because you still see it.”

Washington County Sheriff John Barnes says an investigation by his office is already underway as the family called to make a complaint.

The family will next have to submit a notarized written complaint and the sheriff will provide testimony and footage to the district attorney for review.

WITN will continue to investigate this matter.

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