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Thursday, 24 January 2008

Chet Powell

Chet Powell have missed the deadline to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that said Powell did not use excessive force when he shot and killed their son on Dec. 1, 2005.
Devin Orland, attorney with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, said the 11th Circuit Court has dismissed the matter for “failure to prosecute.”
“While I am hopeful that they will let this go, they can file a motion with the court to reopen the appeal. Such motions usually are granted ... but for right now, the case stands dismissed,” said Orland of the plantiffs.
It’s been just over two years since Chet Powell, a state park ranger at Reed Bingham State Park, shot and killed a man after a scuffle ensued during the attempted arrest of the man. Powell, early on, was cleared by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation of any alleged wrongdoing in the incident in which Curtis Wright Jr., 20, was killed. In mid-December, a federal lawsuit brought by the victim’s family was tossed out of court via a summary judgment issued by U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson.
Lawson’s ruling was in great detail examining plaintiffs’ claims under the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. But in essence, Lawson said there is no evidence to suggest that Powell used excessive force nor that his actions were racially motivated, as alleged by the victim’s family. Powell is Caucasian. The victim was African-American. Lawson also ruled that there was no evidence that would require a jury to hear the case.
The finding by Lawson stated in part that on Dec. 1, 2005, Powell was alerted to someone beating on a soft drink machine at the beach pavilion. Powell investigated and found Curtis at the scene. Curtis denied that he was tampering with the machine but as Powell saw physical damage to the machine and confronted Curtis of his alleged actions, Curtis reached into his waistband as if he was pulling something out, later to be determined to be a scewdriver.
Powell pulled his gun but then holstered it when he saw it was a screwdriver. As he tried to handcuff Curtis, the suspect knocked Powell backwards and tried to flee.

During the process, the finding showed that Powell had holstered his gun twice but that he did eventually spray Curtis with pepper spray when he continued to resist arrest. The finding also showed that in his attempt to flee, Curtis backed the car up causing Powell to struggle to keep from being run over. During that time, there was a struggle over Powell’s gun. In that struggle, Powell gained the upper hand. The gun was fired twice. One bullet hit Curtis in the thigh and the other struck him in the chest.
There were two eyewitnesses to the incident, supporting Powell’s account.
The plaintiffs argued that Powell had no authority to make an arrest, but the court established that Powell was a state conservation ranger and did have the authority to make arrests. It also noted that Curtis failed to comply with attempts to be arrested. An autopsy report showed that Curtis had used marijuana.
The lawsuit was filed by the victim’s father, Curtis Wright Sr. and his mother Wanda Denise Boston.
Powell later was promoted to superintendent at the park. Prior to his employment by the state, Powell also served as a Colquitt County deputy sheriff.

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