The Blountstown police officer who was arrested, along with his son and an Eastpoint man, early Friday morning June 7 after a fight inside an Eastpoint restaurant has been fired.
Blountstown Police Chief Mark Mallory said Lt. Tim Partridge, 47, of Altha, was terminated on Friday for violation of department policies that forbid conduct, both on and off-duty, that can lead to a criminal offense. He said department rules also prohibit actions that can create a "negative public image or embarrassment on the agency."
Partridge was charged with four counts of battery, and released after posting $2,000 bond, $500 for each charge. His son, Scott Dakota Partridge, 23, also of Altha, was charged with one count of battery, and criminal mischief for property damage over $200, and released after posting $750 bond.
A third man, Larry Joe Colson Jr., 45, of Eastpoint, was charged with one count of battery, and posted a $500 bond.
Mallory said the lieutenant had worked four years for the department since he has been chief, and for multiple chiefs prior to that. "He actually is a very laid-back kind of guy. I can only speak for him at work," he said.
Mallory said Partridge does not have incidents of a high use of force on his personnel record, and that he believes this is his first arrest.
"Officers are held to a higher standard while a normal person might be able to keep their job after that," he said. "He is a very good officer; it is unfortunate his life took that direction."
Mallory said he believes it is unfair to characterize an entire department, as some have done, based on the actions of one off-duty officer. "They are quick to characterize all the employees of this agency based on this one five-minute incident," he said.
Mallory said he found no fault with the actions of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. "I think they went there and did their job and arrested him," he said.
In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said after discussion with Assistant State Attorney Jarred Patterson, the prosecutor has decided not to pursue hate crime stipulations.
"(He) determined it was not a hate crime," said the sheriff. "He discussed this with the victims and it did not meet the criteria. That’s the conclusion he came up with."
The sheriff said Patterson is considering a possible upgrade to a felony regarding Partridge’s striking of a female.
Smith praised the actions of his deputies, noting that they did "an excellent job" in taking statements and reviewing evidence within 30 minutes.
He said his department's investigator, as well as its victim advocate, followed up with the victims in the case. "We did take good care of the victims and we'll continue to follow up with them," Smith said.
He closed his remarks by addressing the actions Partridge has been charged with.
"I’m not too happy that a law enforcement e officer comes to our county and gets in an altercation and beats people up," he said. "That’s not the kind of thing I would tolerate. If somebody working here did that, I would fire them, bottom line. It's unprofessional and it makes the entire profession look bad. And I’m not going to put up with it down here,
"If you’re going to wear a badge don’t get into a fight, don’t come down here and fight because you’re going to go to jail," Smith said. "It's wrong and it should have never happened."
According to reports filed by Deputies John Nunez and Jacob Rieben, based on victim accounts and after review of security camera footage, the scenario indicates the Partridges were the aggressors.
The deputies spoke with victims Wesley Martin, Mario Lane, Isaiah Foster and Ashley Love.
Foster said he had been punched in the face for no apparent reason, and a review of security footage indicated that the older Partridge had exited his seat and approached Foster in an aggressive manner, according to the report.
“Before leaving, (he) struck (Foster) with an open right hand to (his face), and then engaging (him by) shoving him into the seat,” it read.
The son pulled his father away, and soon after, together with Colson, they approached Foster, Martin, Lane and Love at their table, and had a verbal altercation with them.
“(Lane) got up out of his seat and began to say something to Dakota Partridge, (who) then lunged at Lane, knocking him to the ground,” read the report.
Other sources have said that the N-word was used by the officer immediately prior to the confrontation, with Lane calling him a “cracker” in response, but there is no mention of these verbal specifics in the deputies’ reports.
It goes on to say that Tim Partridge struck Martin with a closed right hand, knocking him to the ground, and then struck Lane in the face twice with a closed right hand while Lane was trying to get to his feet to defend himself.
When Love tried to separate the older Partridge and Lane, “she was also struck with a closed right hand to the right side of her face, with a slight abrasion to the bridge of the nose and some swelling to the right cheek, read the report.
It goes on to say ran Lane’s head into the wall, causing a hole in the booth where they had been sitting. It says Colson, “who had no connection with anyone from either parties,” struck Lane twice while he was on the ground.
Lane told officers that the incident began when the Partridge party complained of people talking loudly in the restaurant. Gerald, a waiter at the restaurant, told officers that the Partridges “were making derogatory comments towards staff but (they) didn’t pay it any mind, attributing it to them possibly being under the influence of alcohol.”
An attorney from the public defender’s office was appointed to represent all three men, based on their preliminary reports of being financially indigent. All three are set to appear before County Judge Gordon Shuler on Thursday morning, July 11.
The video of the altercation is posted on the Calhoun-Liberty Journal News Facebook page and website https://www.cljnews.com/20190612bpd-lt-tim-partridge-altercation
Teresa Eubanks, editor of the Calhoun-Liberty Journal, assisted with this story.