BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – 61-year-old Freddie Walker, who suffered from schizophrenia, died in late July after being tased multiple times by Burke County deputies during a schizophrenic episode.
His funeral was on Wednesday morning, and his family wants justice.
They’ve hired a lawyer, and tell us they are working on filing a lawsuit against the Burke County Sheriff’s Office for how deputies handled the incident.
“There was different avenues they could have taken to handle that situation, like I said before with MACE, and there was enough people around where they could’ve restrained Freddie,” said Arthur Palmer, Walker’s nephew.
Palmer said that Walker should not have been tased multiple times, and that deputies should have used de-escalation techniques and asked questions beforehand.
They believe this would have prevented Walker’s death. They also think the paramedics on the scene could have done more.
“The goal is to file a lawsuit, not only that, but get the proper training so this doesn’t happen to another family,” Palmer said.
In a video statement released after the incident, Sheriff Alfonzo Williams said he believes the deputies didn’t violate any laws.
“We do realize that people across the country have died after being tased, and usually there is some underlying medical condition,” Sheriff Williams said. “Mr. Walker’s body will go to the crime lab for an autopsy and we’ll await those results.”
The Sheriff’s Office sent us the following statement on Wednesday:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Freddie Walker. It was an unfortunate incident and we understand the frustration and hurt Walker’s family is experiencing. Our deputies undergo Taser Certification Training as well as the yearly recertification which is required by the manufacturer and by the department. As most know, sometimes there are not enough resources available in certain areas for people who might experience a mental crisis. We remain hopeful that the state of Georgia will take a more active role in regulating systems to protect mental health patients and provide the necessary funding to support mental health efforts. Again, our agency along with Sheriff Alfonzo Williams sends our deepest sympathy to all involved. We will have no further comment due to the fact this is a legal matter. ”
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident. They tell us it’s under final review and will then be passed along to the District Attorney.
“My uncle Freddie, he was one of the best men I’ve ever met in my life. I ain’t never seen a bad bone in his body, an angry bone in his body, never. And that’s the type of man I want to remember him as,” said Qway Rackins, Walker’s nephew. “Now that we’re fighting for justice for him, I feel like it should’ve never came to that. That’s something that hurt me and my family deeply and I just hope we can move past from that.”
Sheriff Williams said in the video statement that body cam footage will be released when the investigation is complete. We are still waiting on an autopsy report.