A Dadeville mother and her son want to see a Dadeville police officer removed from the department or at the very least re-trained after the officer drew his gun on the son during a traffic stop.
The pair was joined by nearly 100 in the crowd for Tuesday’s Dadeville City Council meeting to tell DeMico Silmon’s story and lodge a complaint.
“The officer pulled a gun,” Silmon said. “I put my hands out the window. He didn’t identify himself; he didn’t ask for a license or registration.”
Silmon said the stop disturbed him especially when the officer, John Sutherlin, didn’t explain what was happening.
“I’m scared, shaking, shocked,” Silmon said. “I could have been killed.”
Silmon, a lifelong Dadeville resident and Auburn University senior, was driving his silver Nissan Altima to take an exam in Auburn on the morning of Oct. 24 when the 911 dispatch alerted Dadeville police officers to be on the lookout for a male subject with a gun who walked into a home and left in a silver BMW sport utility vehicle. An officer noticed Silmon traveling on Woodyard Street while driving the Altima and pulled behind him with flashing lights to make the stop on U.S. Highway 280. According to Silmon, the officer exited his vehicle with his gun drawn and quickly left with little explanation.
“He’s looking confused,” Silmon said. “He ran back to his car and took off.”
Silmon said he couldn’t move and sat on the side of the road to call his mother Melinda who went to the Dadeville Police Department to speak with chief Jonathan Floyd. She characterized the brief encounter as unprofessional. Melinda then went to city hall hoping to speak with Mayor Wayne Smith. When Smith was not there, she left a message on his phone. Melinda said her first encounter over the phone with Smith was not pleasant.
“In a snappy tone he told me he was at the fire department,” Melinda said.
Melinda did get to sit down with Smith in his office shortly after the call.
“He was opening a letter,” Melinda said. “I told him I felt (officer) Sutherlin was not properly trained. (Smith) said they were trained. He seemed agitated.”
Floyd told councilmembers he and Smith met with the Silmons and he conducted an investigation.
“We met with the Silmons and reviewed the video of the stop,” Floyd said. “At this point officer (John) Sutherlin did not violate Dadeville Police Department policy.”
The Silmons countered they have not seen the video footage from Sutherlin’s body camera or patrol vehicle of the stop.
City attorney Robin Reynolds said because a formal complaint had been filed, video footage of the incident is not be immediately available.
“I need to look into the policy on this,” Reynolds said. “I’m going to complete an investigation and make my recommendations to the council. They will take it from there.”
Reynolds said he would do his own investigation and make recommendations to the council.
Floyd said Sutherlin apologized to the family but Melinda said she felt it was ingenuine.
“He couldn’t look me in my face,” Melinda said. “He knew what he did, what he did was wrong.”
DeMico asked the council and Floyd how his vehicle could be confused with the vehicle police were looking for and where backup was if it was thought officers had an armed driver.
“How do you confuse a car and SUV?” DeMico asked.
Floyd said Sutherlin was distracted.
“He and another officer were just completing an arrest when the call came out,” Floyd said. “He didn’t get the full description of the vehicle.”
Councilmembers listened to the discussion between the Silmons and Floyd before councilmember Teneeshia Goodman-Johnson spoke up saying she is normally quiet on things when she doesn’t have all the information to form an opinion. Goodman-Johnson asked for a copy of the policy Floyd referred to and when it was put in place. Floyd said the policy was last amended in 2012.
Melinda asked if Sutherlin was not removed could the department receive additional training.
“If incidents like this continue to occur, what is the city’s liability?” she asked “If this call were a robbery call, why would you go by yourself?”
Melinda wanted asked for a public apology from Sutherlin but he was not there. Floyd and five other Dadeville police officers were in attendance. Goodman-Johnson offered her apology from the council platform and many visited with DeMico following the meeting expressing their sorrows.
“Put your child in this situation,” Melinda said. “That was the most terrifying day of my life.”