When he found his suspect, Ellijay, Ga., police Sgt. Brian Troglin shouted orders.
"Hold up," he told Terry Cantrell, the man he was chasing.
"I'm pulling my Taser," he told his partner, officer Trevor McClure. "I'm pulling my Taser."
But McClure slammed the car door on June 16, 2015, and sprinted down the road toward Cantrell, a DUI suspect who had minutes earlier crashed his car and taken off on foot, through the woods, onto another road. There, he stopped, right in front of Troglin's car. McClure was now bolting toward him.
"Watch out for that knife," Troglin yelled, according to McClure. (Troglin's own written version of events does not include this warning.)
McClure, who had been on the force for 11 months, said he spotted a 6-inch blade, strapped to Cantrell's right hip. But the officer was already so close, about 5 feet away. And his momentum was carrying him. Cantrell stuck his hands in the air. McClure buried his shoulder into Cantrell's chest, sweeping through his body, according to dashcam footage obtained through an open records request. McClure drove him into the ground.
Almost immediately, he realized Cantrell was unconscious and bleeding from the back of the head. Troglin said he could hear the suspect snoring.
Reviewing the video, Ellijay Police Department Chief Edward Lacey said McClure used appropriate force, despite Cantrell standing still when the officer tackled him. Cantrell was on the run, a potential threat to residents, Lacey argued. And when Troglin's car first pulled up, Cantrell turned his back to the officers. Maybe he was looking for an escape route.
The chief's assessment not withstanding, Cantrell filed a lawsuit against McClure and the city last month, saying that the officer's tackle caused $350,000 worth of medical treatment. His brain was bleeding, according to the lawsuit, and he was in a coma for 12 days. (In his own report, Lacey wrote that Cantrell was actually conscious the day after the arrest, when the chief visited him at the hospital.)
One of his lawyers, Jesse Vaughn, said last month that Cantrell still suffers memory loss. Another attorney, George Weaver, sent Ellijay Mayor Al Hoyle a letter in December 2015, offering to settle any potential lawsuit for $1.1 million. The city did not respond.
One element of both Troglin's and McClure's versions of events is difficult to verify. While Troglin said he shouted "hold up" to McClure, and while McClure said Troglin warned him about the knife, neither statement is on the dashcam footage obtained by the Times Free Press.
Typically, Lacey said, the officers' statements show up in these kinds of videos. Officers wear audio packs that sync to the cameras. But sometimes, an error throws off the process. Some sort of signal interference in the system might cause a malfunction. Or the officer might forget the pack.
That might have happened on this particular day, Lacey said. Before pursuing Cantrell, McClure and Troglin had been at city hall, preparing for municipal court to start. They heard over the radio an officer complaining about a suspected drunken driver refusing to pull over, then crashing into a wooden sign at the entrance to a park, then fleeing.
It's possible, Lacey said, that Troglin forgot to bring the audio pack with him when he ran to his patrol car to provide backup.
While Lacey told his officer that taking down Cantrell was appropriate, given the circumstances, he did not think McClure's actions were ideal. For example, Cantrell put his hands in the air as McClure ran toward him. But McClure was running so hard, he didn't have time to see what was in those hands. Could Cantrell have been pulling out his knife?
No, he didn't. But McClure didn't have a chance to find out, one way or another. And while Troglin intended to stop Cantrell with his Taser, Lacey wrote, "the result may as well have been the same." He told the Times Free Press on Wednesday that the shock from the Taser might have thrown Cantrell back, and he might have hit his head on the ground anyway.
"It's just an unknown as to what would happen if he had been Tased and fallen straight back," Lacey said. "It's an unfortunate incident. It's not one that we would want to happen to anybody. But we did not choose to place ourselves in the circumstance."
Vaughn declined to comment on specifics of the case Wednesday.
"We feel like the video speaks for itself," he said.
Dana Maine, an attorney for the city, also did not comment for this story. She has not answered Cantrell's complaint yet. But she has moved to transfer the case from Gilmer County Superior Court to U.S. District Court. A judge has not decided on that question.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.