A hearing on a lawsuit filed against Pembroke Police Chief Mark Crowe and Sheriff Clyde Smith will be heard by Bryan County Superior Court Judge David Cavender on Thursday at 9 am.
The civil suit was filed April 27 by Savannah attorney Sage Brown on behalf of Tommy Lee Williams, Henrietta Williams, Laquana Beniman, Dewayne J. Williams, Brian J. Williams and Latreka Edwards.
It accuses Crowe, a Bryan County Sheriff’s Department deputy at the time, of "rude and unprofessional" behavior and brutality during an April 14 incident near Charles Shuman Road and Beulah Church Road, where the six were arrested.
The suit also requests that all police officers and deputies tied to the incident not be allowed to patrol that area until a hearing by the court because they are "fearful" the police will "patrol this area in order to obtain some information, evidence or documents that they can use to further cover up these crimes," the suit said.
Neither Crowe, Smith nor Pembroke Mayor Judy Cook could be reached.
Brown said Tuesday his clients are apprehensive about the police patrolling the area and expects Cavender to issue a temporary ruling that would stop the officers and deputies involved from patrolling the area.
"We believe the evidence will be compelling," Brown said. "It’s important to return some predictability to their environment so they can enjoy the peace and comfort of their homes."
According to Brown, his clients also are afraid of retribution by the police for speaking out.The fight reportedly started due to mistaken identity, when Crowe called out to Tommy Lee Williams thinking he was someone else. It escalated into a physical fight between Crowe and Williams and another deputy and Pembroke police were called for backup.
Ultimately, Williams was taken to the hospital by EMS for treatment after reportedly being hit several times with a police baton and tased in the effort to restrain him. The others, including 81-year-old Henrietta Williams, were arrested on charges from obstruction of police to terroristic threats.
According to residents gathered May 7 at the Gospel Truth Bible Clinic in Ellabell, the incident with Crowe brings to light a long time issue with police brutality against the black community in the Pembroke area. None would go on record.
In the meantime, representatives of the NAACP say they are demanding a full investigation into the April 14 incident.
"We are going to pursue justice with all force and relentlessness," Liston Singletary of the Liberty County NAACP said. "We are going to pursue justice until justice comes home."
"Not all (police) are bad," he said, "but there is a culture of police officers out there that is violating your civil rights. They need to be delt with by way of the justice system."
Georgia NAACP President Edward DuBose called to speak to those gathered.
"We want to send a strong message to the mayor, county commissioners, the sheriff and all law enforcement down there that you cannot beat our folk down and not expect them to retaliate," DuBose said by cellphone, which was held up to a microphone at the May 7 meeting in Ellabell.
Brown said he is convinced it’s in the best interest of all concerned if there were no dealings between the parties until a thorough investigation of the incident is conducted.
Crowe was appointed Pembroke police chief in a called City Council meeting on April 20 and was sworn into office by Judge Jack Carney on May 4.