Deputy's use of force in question after student caught taking snacks in Georgia

A Newton County sheriff's deputy is under investigation after using force against a high school student who was allegedly stealing from a school vending machine, authorities said.

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The deputy, who was not identified, was reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation, the sheriff’s office announced Monday.

The incident Thursday at Alcovy High School was first reported as a disturbance in a common area.

“Initially they thought it was a fight but quickly determined it was theft of snacks from the vending machine,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cortney Morrison said in a news release.

In a cellphone video taken by another student, deputies serving as school resource officers are shown detaining students in a crowd in front of the vending machines. One student, 14-year-old A'sah Glenn, is shown being pushed up against a machine, and it appears one deputy put his hand against Glenn's throat.

Another deputy grabbed him around the waist and threw him to the ground, the video shows. He grabbed the boy’s legs to pull him flat on his back, before extending a hand and helping Glenn off the floor.

During the encounter, Glenn is shown in the video with hands raised.

"He is offering no physical or verbal resistance," Harold Spence, an attorney for Glenn's family, told "He gets slammed to the floor, and as a result of all this he gets two charges and a three-day suspension. Clearly none of the students should have accessed the open vending machine, but the law enforcement overreaction is just inexcusable."

According to Spence, someone disabled the vending machine and several students took advantage of the free snacks. Glenn grabbed an 85-cent Snickers bar, he said.

In return, Glenn and another 14-year-old student were charged with theft by taking and disorderly conduct. A 15-year-old student is facing those charges plus disruption of a public school and obstruction.

Glenn was not injured other than a scraped knee and some soreness to his left side, Spence said. The family is hoping school officials will also make a formal inquiry into the officers’ response.

“There has to be a better way to handle these nonviolent situations that simply involve, perhaps, poor judgment by 14-year-olds taking candy bars,” he said. “We hope the procedures and processes change.”

For their part, Morrison said Sheriff Ezell Brown was committed to investigating the incident just like any other.

“Newton County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the video circulating throughout the media and it has been turned over to the Office of Professional Standards which investigates all use-of-force incidents,” she said.

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