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July 31, 2012

Hearing on officer's firing reveals details

Officials hear more than 9 hours of testimony on Taser incident

PERU — An internal investigation says a Peru police officer shocked a 64-year-old nursing home patient with advanced-stage Alzheimer’s a total of five times, releasing 31 seconds of electricity in just over a minute.

Was that force used by Peru Officer Gregory Martin excessive, and does it justify his termination?

That was the question put before the city’s board of works Monday, where board members listened to more than nine hours of testimony from witnesses during a hearing to determine whether to fire Martin — the recommendation made by Police Chief Steve Hoover this month.

“I believe his conduct ... was so unreasonable that it was unbecoming of an officer on the Peru Police Department,” Hoover said during the hearing. “I think he should have done a lot of things different.”

The hearing stems from a June 17 incident in which Martin and Officer Jeremy Brindle were dispatched to Miller’s Merry Manor nursing home after an employee reported resident James Howard was “very combative,” according to a 9-1-1 call released at the hearing.

After Howard wouldn’t obey officers’ commands to enter an ambulance to go to Dukes Memorial Hospital and backed Brindle into a corner with closed fists, Martin Tased Howard five times — four times while on the ground, according to employees who witnessed the incident.

But a decision from the board will wait until Aug. 10. The hearing was recessed to allow time for more witnesses to weigh in on the incident.

Martin is also accused of making false statements during the internal investigation — a violation of department code that comes with its own penalties. Martin claimed Howard stood up and continued to fight after the first and second times he administered a shock. Witnesses denied the claims, saying Howard remained on the ground after the first use of the Taser.

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