Streaking incident brings disciplinary, legal action
Streaking across the football field in his boxer shorts at East Coweta High School during halftime at the Newnan High School game last week left 16-year-old junior Gunner Cook facing obstruction charges from the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. A video taken of Gunner’s run where he was tased by a deputy has Maj. James Yarbrough saying the deputy followed policy. Yet another video of a deputy cursing at students and pushing one of them a short time later at the concession stand has resulted in an internal investigation of the incident.
Gunner Cook streaked down the field on a dare, said Gunner’s mother Lynn Cook. A video of the incident showed a deputy approaching him near the far-side end zone. A flash of light from the deputy’s hand appeared to be an attempt to use a taser on the high school junior. But the deputy loses his footing and falls to the ground, enabling Gunner to run past him and into the area where band parents and other deputies are assembled.
Cook said her son is facing a misdemeanor charge of obstruction. Due to that charge, Cook said she is taking legal action.
It was the notice of legal action that resulted in Yarbrough being unable to answer additional questions about the incident. What Yarbrough did say prior to the notice of legal action was that the deputy gave Gunner a verbal command that was not heeded, and subsequently discharged the taser according to policy. Yarbrough added that the taser may have nicked Gunner as he ran by the deputy.
Yarbrough said Gunner was grabbed by band parents as he exited the field. At that point deputies subdued the boy. Family friends said that Gunner was subdued by three officers on the asphalt running track adjacent to the football field.
Commenting on Ms. Cook’s statement that she had been told that one of the deputies placed his handgun up to Gunner’s head while he was on the ground, Yarbrough said that did not occur.
Yarbrough said his office has interviewed a number of non-law enforcement individuals who were in close proximity to the incident, including a school principal, and no one saw a gun drawn.
A second, short video shows a number of people in the concession area during halftime. It is in that video that a deputy walks up to a small group of students and yells emphatically, “Get your asses back in the stands.” In response, one of the students asks, “Can’t we get something to eat?” At that point the deputy turns back in the direction of the students, approaches and appears to shove one of them backwards. Another student responds to the action saying, “That’s not needed.” The deputy then points at the students and says. “Act like you’ve got some sense.”
Yarbrough also commented on the alleged shoving incident in the concession area, saying the deputy’s action is the subject of an internal investigation.
As for Gunner, the school tribunal resulted in his suspension from school until Dec. 3. He is also prohibited from attending or participating in after-school activities for the remainder of the school year, Lynn Cook said.
“I was fine with the school’s disciplinary decision because Gunner knew he did wrong,” Cook said of her son, adding that he maintains a B-average and has a spotless record with no past disciplinary problems. “He said he wished he hadn’t done it and he would try to stop someone else from doing the same thing.”
Family friend and military veteran Bill Kemp was at the game. In viewing the video of Gunner and the deputy on the field, Kemp said he did not see the officer’s hand come up to try to stop Gunner.
“Gunner was running fast and the officer (as he approached the student) lost his footing and fell,” Kemp said. “If (the deputy) followed (taser) procedure, I suggest they revise the procedure. It was excessive.”
Pertaining to the videos on the field and the shoving and language used by the officer at the concession area, Kemp said, “Because of officers’ actions like that, is why a lot of people in the public are afraid of them. You should be afraid of bad guys, not of the police.”
Another family friend, David Webb, said one of his children was among those taking videos at the football game. Webb noted his concern with the circumstances that unfolded and with an aspect of what he saw in the videos.
“I’m concerned that when my kids or my wife are in the community that officers might be compelled to treat them or other citizens that way,” Webb said.