Third Grade Teacher Tasered: Officers Are Out

Two police officers, Ryan Smith of the Lumpkin Georgia Police Department and Tim Murphy of the Richland Police Department, have left their positions after repeatedly using a Taser on 57-year-old Janice Wells of Stewart County, Ga.

Ms. Wells, a third grade school teacher, had called the police to report a prowler outside her home. She called the police for help, but shortly after they arrived she was soon pleading with them to stop shocking her with a Taser.

During the unbelievable scene Wells was also blasted with a dose of pepperspray. Officer Smith, who resigned after the incident, was the officer wielding the Taser. He had responded from a neighboring county to back up Officer Murphy since his own local sheriff’s office was busy with other calls and couldn’t provide assistance. Smith resigned, but proceedings to fire him were already in progress. Smith’s former boss, Chief Steven Ogle, had this to say after viewing the in-car video, “I couldn’t believe it. You don’t use it [a Taser] for punitive reasons, to prod someone. It was evident it was an improper use of force. He was an excellent officer other than that incident.” (Chief Ogle’s comment from AJC).

Smith remains adamant that he used the appropriate tactics.

Officer Tim Murphy was fired by his department.

Former Officer Ryan Smith has since gone to work for the neighboring Chattahoochee County Sheriff’s Office.

Janice Wells told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “All of it’s just unreal to me. I was scared to death. He kept tasing me and tasing me. My fingernails are still burned. My leg, back and my butt had a long scar on it for days.”

It’s a little unclear, but it’s possible the use of force began when Wells either wouldn’t, or couldn’t, answer questions about the prowler. Still, we do not know what happened inside the house, nor do we know about any of the events that led to Ms. Wells’ unusual position outside the patrol car.

*The kind folks over at Mysteries and Margaritas have invited me to guest blog on their site today. Please stop by to say hi. As usual, I’ve told one of my wacky stories.

14 replies
  1. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Freedom – I don’t necessarily think the police chief’s would have blamed Ms. Wells for the incident. At least I hope not. But you have to look at this from every point of view sans the video (fortunately, there was a video in this instance). Most criminals (And I don’t for a minute think that Ms. Wells is a criminal. No way) have a tendency to stretch the truth a bit (Yes, I know there cops who do the same). Therefore, a chief or sheriff has only the word of their officers, or deputies, in which to base their opinions. And, like everyone else in the world you normally trust those people who are closest to you until someone steps forward and proves them wrong. Doesn’t always make it right, but you have to start somewhere. Wouldn’t you take the word of a trusted family member over that of a stranger? Now, on the other hand, once a chief or sheriff no longer trusts an employee…well, it’s definitely time to start thinking career change.

    Please make no mistake, I’m not defending the officer who did the Tasering in this incident, because I think he was way out of line. WAY, way out of line. All I’m saying is that he was a bad apple in a barrel overflowing with good ones.

    As far as a criminal act…I can’t even begin to make a guess because I wasn’t there, and I don’t like to make judgments based on videos (for either side of the argument). Remember, there has to be criminal intent to charge someone.

  2. Freedon Concerns
    Freedon Concerns says:

    “The Georgia Bureau of Investigation reviewed video of the incident and found no criminal wrongdoing and no one had requested that the agency investigate further, authorities said.” CNN

    Boycott Racist Georgia

  3. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Great information, Bruce. I’d heard something similar (not quite, but close enough), but didn’t have the facts to support posting it. So Larry is the county sheriff, huh? I suddenly understand why heads rolled so quickly. Makes perfectly good sense…now. I bet there are a few civil attorneys circling their prey right about now.

    I sure would like to have Ms. Wells on The Graveyard Shift to clear this up for us. Or, maybe Sheriff Jones would be so kind to stop by to say a few words. Ideas? I am a member in good standing of The National Sheriff’s Association…

    Bruce – Feel free to contact me off list at

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Hall – I’ve made the change of locale. That was simply an error on my part. My brain is slower than my typing, which really doesn’t say a lot about my mental capacity.

  5. Bruce Vernon
    Bruce Vernon says:

    The person who shows up at the end of the video is Me Wells long time friend and County Sheriff, Larry Jones. According to reports by both officers and a family friend who was present what follows is what led to the incident. After calling police, Ms Wells called a family friend to come over since her husbend was 90 miles away. He came and was present when Murphy showed up. After staying to be sure his friend was ok he left for home. It is at this point the Murphy asked her for his name which Ms Wells refused to give. It wasn’t the name of the person suspected of sneaking around the house but the family friend who showed up for support she refused to give. She tells Murphy there was no reason for him to know that. Murpgy later claims in his report that he suspected domestic violence which makes me then wonder why he allowed the man to leave without getting his name in the first place. When he insisted she grabbed her purse and headed toward the house. Murphy pepper sprays her so she runs. He chases, catches and handcuffs her. He then places her under arrest and moves her toward the car. At the car she trys to run again and there is a struggle where she ends up face down on the ground in a ball. It is at this point that Smith shows up and zaps her at least four times before Sheriff Larry Jones shows up. Jones later bonds her out of jail and takes her to a hospital. He is also the one who pushed for an investigation. So basically Murphy and Smith tazered a 57 year old school teacher for refusing to give the name of a family friend whose sole reason for being there was to support her in her hour of need. Draw your own conclusions.

  6. Hall
    Hall says:

    This appears to be a terrible incident, and I am sorry for the lady involved and hope justice is done. But as a Lumpkin County resident, I ask that you PLEASE get this right. This did NOT involve a Lumpkin COUNTY officer, but a city of Lumpkin police officer – way different places!

  7. West
    West says:

    I agree that this is a case of assault, battery, and a civil rights violation. However, both the city attorney and district attorney decided not to file criminal charges against these two police thugs. Sadly, this happens everyday in America, and police and their corrupt union maintain their culture of terror on its citizens and gets away with it. Be careful, you could be next victim of police rein of terror. I’d like to see the Justice dept. bring criminal charges against these 2 police thugs for civil rights violation. Furthermore, Ms. Wells should retain high power Atlanta attorney and sue the city, county, and two police thugs for actual and punitive damages in range of hundreds of millions. If I were a jury in that trial, I will vote to grant maximum punitive damages allowed to force these racist cities to control their mad dogs (police).

  8. Legal Eagle
    Legal Eagle says:

    Chattahoochee County is clearly acting recklessly to hire such an officer. I am certain this is the tip of the iceberg. Putting a gun in Smith’s hands is ill advised and will lead to further harm. The use of the Taser to force a person to answer a question is clearly torture, or in this case, assault, battery, and a civil rights violation.

    BTW – the fellow who was tased in Canada later died. He was tased AFTER he had ceased to be aggressive and the officers continued to tase him after he had become unconscious.

    The Tasers have a logging feature. This will show the number of shocks administered. The fact that he was able to shock her 12 times without killing her indicates that he was using the device to inflict pain. If he was asking questions, there was no need to subdue her. Further, at that point she was effectively in custody, arrested, and entitled to legal representation. Hmmm – pretty clear civil rights violation and case of torture in custody.

    Venue is federal court
    Venue should be changed as local government condoned the activity – Chattahoochee County hired Smith
    Smith can be fired for cause even after he resigns – impacts pension and ability to be rehired.
    Smith should be denied access to firearms – he clearly is sadistic and agressive

    The evidence speaks for itself – the number of shocks and fact the victim is not dead tells a story in itself. Also, two police officers vs a 57 year old woman – gross use of excessive force
    These men deserve 2-3 years in *general circulation*

  9. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I agree, Pat. I’ve responded to calls where the victims actually attacked the officers and had to be restrained, handcuffed, and even peppersprayed and eventually arrested. So who knows what happened before Taser-happy Officer Smith arrived.

    No matter what, the devices aren’t meant to be used as cattle prods.

  10. Pat Brown
    Pat Brown says:

    I’d really like to know what went on before this video. The woman calls for help and they get mad at her because she can’t answer their questions? Don’t victims often get agitated? They’re scared — so these cops respond by tasering her? I just wish it was clearer what occurred earlier.

  11. Tricky
    Tricky says:

    wow so he got fired from Stewart County, but was hired by Chattahoochee County. These are the kind of deputy’s Sheriff Cooper love. It’s just mind-boggling how the next county hired him. I hope she sue the Sheriff department for all it is worth, and then sue the deputy’s who tased her. SMH

  12. Rabid
    Rabid says:

    There seems to be something about a taser that just excites some law enforcement members. I still recall the video of Vancouver RCMP tasering that poor bugger in the airport a couple of years ago. It’s a shame that the good guys are shadows by bad apples.

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