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  • Officer quits after controversial traffic stop involving grandmother

    By: Mike Petchenik

    Updated:

    NORTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - The Georgia Bureau of Investigation say it is now investigating an Alpharetta police officer after a traffic stop involving a 65-year-old grandmother.

    Officer James Legg resigned from the department Friday afternoon over dash cam video that appears to show Legg cussing at and pulling Rose Campbell, 65, out of her SUV near Ga. 400 and Windward Parkway.

    Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik first showed you dash cam video Thursday night on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m.

    Alpharetta police told Petchenik they originally suspended Officer James Legg and opened an internal investigation into what happened. Legg resigned Friday afternoon, according to his lawyer.

    Campbell, who is also a Lyft driver, was ticketed for failing to maintain her lane, and she refused to sign the ticket, which resulted in the officer trying to take her to jail.

    She talked to Petchenik exclusively Thursday.


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    "I'm going to be honest with you, I felt violated," she said. "I felt not only that my space had been violated, but that he was not respecting me."

    Members of Georgia’s Legislative Black Caucus condemned Legg’s alleged actions.

    "I would ask you this. Is this how you would treat your grandmother?" one of the members said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

    Officer Michael Swerdlove tried to arrest Campbell during the incident, and it escalated to a situation the police chief himself condemned.

    "Now I can't trust a blue light. I can't. It's damaged me. It's hurt me. Left something in my soul that I can never forget," Campbell said. "If nothing else comes from this, I want justice to occur. True justice with a capital 'J.'”

    In his resignation letter, Legg defended himself:

    Dear Chief Robison,

    Effective immediately, and regrettably, I quit.

    Since 1995, I have dedicated myself to public service. As you know, I retired from the military and served in law enforcement in Florida before moving to Georgia. Unfortunately, an incident on May 4, 2018 led me to write this letter to you.

    I feel I acted appropriately and the way that I was trained when I arrested Ms. Campbell. As you saw on the video, Ms. Campbell almost drove into another Alpharetta police officer. She was lawfully stopped for failing to maintain her lane. Although she denied the traffic violation, the officer issued her a ticket.

    Due to her behavior on the side of the road, and after noticing the car had dark tint and there was someone in the backseat, the officer asked her to get out and at some point advised she was under arrest. Ms. Campbell did not obey a lawful command. The officer was unable to subdue the driver and requested for backup officers to come to his location. Numerous Alpharetta police officers arrived, including me.

    At the time I arrived on scene, I saw officers unsuccessfully trying to effectuate the arrest of Ms. Campbell. Also, I noticed the vehicle was still running and from my experience, I considered the vehicle to be a possible weapon, so I neutralized it by turning it off. There are uncounted incidents of officers being dragged down the street by motorists who are being arrested. The officers were still not able to complete the arrest of Ms. Campbell as she was still in the vehicle and holding on to the seatbelt. I did what was necessary to complete the arrest by raising my voice and using verbal commands using heavy control talk with profanity. It worked instantly and she exited the vehicle immediately! When the other officers did not immediately restrain and handcuff her I then freed her from her grasp on the seatbelt and she was escorted to the police vehicle. All force ceased and the arrest was now over. I judged her actions to be passive resistance and used very limited force to end a multiple minute encounter with the suspect.

    Maybe I should not have used profanity, but its immediate effectiveness is not questionable and I do believe I acted reasonably under the circumstances.

    I do not feel I will get a fair internal affairs investigation from you due to the comments you made on Facebook prior to interviewing any of the other officers, or even me. Rather than let an independent agency or officer review my performance, you have all but issued a statement finding my actions unworthy, unreasonable, and in violation of policy. I will justify my actions when given the opportunity to do so through a POST investigation, but will not subject myself to the investigation of an agency Chief who would rather care about public perception and political correctness over officer, suspect and the general public’s safety. I remind you that I did not make the traffic stop, did not begin the use of force, did respond with emergency equipment, did properly analyze the situation, did render the vehicle safe, did get the suspects attention and out of the car, did effectively get her
     
    detached from the seatbelt, and did get her handcuffed with limited force. The encounter had been going on with multiple officers responding with emergency equipment leaving the general public unprotected while the encounter continued. In conclusion, I feel my decisions ended a volatile situation quickly with very limited force and got everyone off the highway and back into service.

    Alpharetta police accepted Legg's letter of resignation but also vowed to keep investigating him and asked the GBI to assist.

    "Our hope is to move on with our community and rebuild that trust that we work so hard to build that now some of that was lost during this incident," said Howard Miller with the Alpharetta Police Department.

    Campbell said that her Christian faith requires her to forgive.

    “Every human being deserves respect, but we as mothers deserve an immense amount of respect,” Campbell said.

    The chief said he asked the GBI to get involved because he wants an impartial investigation into what happened.

    Legg’s attorney, A.J. Richman, maintains his client didn't use excessive force.

    “So, the officer has a tough time. It's at night, there's traffic. There's other officers. There's another passenger who is unidentified walking around the vehicle. He was called to effectuate the arrest and he's doing his job,” Richman told Petchenik.

    “Does he apologize to her for how this turned out?" Petchenik asked Richman. 

    "At this point, we're focused on what the chief of police put out to Facebook and that's where our focus is on right now," Richman said. “We believe there was no excessive use of force here."

     

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