"Those were the findings of a police internal investigation that police Chief Matt Doering made public Monday in a 23-page report."
Paragraph five reads: "n Georgia, a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 can be charged with driving under the influence. He also had Lamotrigine, a prescription medicine used to treat bipolar disorder, and the antidepressant Pristiq in his system, the results showed."
Glynn County police acted properly in killing Marty Reagin, probe says
Killed man was drunk, angry
- By Teresa Stepzinski
- Story updated at 9:56 AM on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010
BRUNSWICK – Marty Reagin was legally drunk, taking medication that shouldn't be mixed with alcohol and angry beyond reasoning when a Glynn County police officer, who believed other officers were in danger, shot Reagin to death.
Those were the findings of a police internal investigation that police Chief Matt Doering made public Monday in a 23-page report.
The report, which incorporates the findings of a separate Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe, says police officers acted properly during the three-hour, Sept. 10 standoff to protect themselves and the public given the circumstances. It comes on the heels of a county grand jury decision clearing police in Reagin's death.
Reagin had a blood alcohol content level of 0.125, a toxicology test performed at the state crime laboratory revealed.
In Georgia, a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 can be charged with driving under the influence. He also had Lamotrigine, a prescription medicine used to treat bipolar disorder, and the antidepressant Pristiq in his system, the results showed.
Both carry warnings that, when used in combination with alcohol, the drugs might impair judgment and thinking and cause central nervous system depression.
Doering's report contains the following details:
Officers said they saw Reagin pointing long guns at them from inside his home and that he threatened repeatedly to kill him. After changing into camouflage clothing, Reagin made 19 obscenity-laced threats to kill police during a 29-minute phone conversation with an officer who is married to Reagin's niece. A transcript shows Reagin appeared suicidal during the conversation, in which police Officer Eric Naugle tried to convince him to surrender.
Reagin responded with threats to kill officers and himself, repeatedly demanded police leave and at one point said the only way he would leave was in a hearse.
The shooting occurred shortly after Reagin agreed to come onto his porch to accept a citation for violating the county sign ordinance. When he came outside, SWAT officers fired a Taser, which struck Reagin but dislodged when he fell momentarily. Reagin then ran around the side of his house toward the back door.
Sgt. Craig Brown saw Reagin running, bend down between his house and a boat and then stand back up while looking behind him toward pursuing officers.
"It appeared to Sgt. Brown that Mr. Reagin was holding a weapon in his hand … Fearing Mr. Reagin was about to shoot the officers pursing him, [Brown] fired …" Doering said in the report.
Reagin continued running and made it inside the house, where officers later found him dead beside a high-powered rifle and large kitchen knife.
Reagin died from a single buckshot pellet to the heart, an autopsy showed.
Someone who knew the 45-year-old St. Simons Island man, however, disputes those findings. Reagin, who suffered from bipolar disorder, was upset and verbally threatened officers but never pointed a gun at them, said Robyn Fendig, his girlfriend, who was present during the standoff.
Fendig disputes the police findings and the separate conclusions of a county grand jury, which heard evidence in the case this month. Statements attributed to her in Doering's report are wrong or were taken out of context, she said.
"I never saw him point a gun at anybody. It was always up in the air. He would never have shot anyone," said Fendig contradicting a statement Doering said GBI agents obtained from her during their investigation.
Fendig said as police arrived she told Reagin that guns were no way to handle the situation.
Asked who she believed was to blame in Reagin's death, she said "it's kind of like it's the perfect storm of circumstances."
Reagin would still be alive, she said, if police were trained to deal with the mentally ill, and if county code enforcement officers had never stopped to remove a sign in front of his home.
"I think what they did was escalate the whole thing," Fendig said. "Looking back, they never allowed him to cool off … I think the police protocol is based on poor training."
Doering said his officers are trained to deal with mentally ill and emotionally unstable people and "do it all the time." Police tried unsuccessfully to convince Reagin to surrender peacefully, Doering said.
Explaining that he did not know what Reagin would do, Doering said, "When your life is on the line, you don't take risks."
"At the end of the day, I know I made the right decision because all my officers went home safe and members of the public went home safe except, regrettably, Mr. Reagin, but he was the one in control of that situation," Doering said.
A Glynn County grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing by Brown, who fired the fatal shot, or by any other police officer in Reagin's death.
District Attorney Stephen Kelley announced the findings, which mirror his own conclusion, on Jan. 15.
The grand jury presentment has yet to be made public because it was still under review by Chief Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams.
Holle Weiss-Friedman, a Brunswick lawyer who was forewoman of the grand jury, confirmed Kelley's account earlier. She previously told the Times-Union the grand jury "ratified the determination of the District Attorney's Office that law enforcement acted appropriately."
It was unknown Monday when the presentment would be filed and made public. Kelley previously said Williams is reviewing the document and "possibly redacting some of the language" to ensure it is legal.
Police responded to Reagin's home at the request of Glynn County code enforcement officers Mickey Milton and Robin Hummel. Both later told investigators that Reagin accosted and verbally berated and threatened them after they stopped to advise him that an advertising sign in front of his home violated the county's zoning ordinance.
In his 911 call requesting police backup, Milton is heard saying, "This guy here, we're fixing to have to whip his ***."
Neither Kelley nor Weiss-Friedman would say whether the grand jury addressed Milton or Hummel's conduct.
Both remain on the job as code enforcement officers, said Candice Temple, county spokeswoman.
onville .com, (912) 264-0405