The deputy who arrested a Roswell woman over the weekend at a political rally in Dawson County has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation into the incident.
Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle said the decision to place Capt. Tony Wooten on paid leave came after investigators reviewed a video taken by the woman at the event at Burt's Pumpkin Farm.
Nydia Tisdale, 51, was charged with felony obstruction of an officer and criminal trespass, a misdemeanor after she was asked to stop recording the political speakers but refused on Saturday.
"In light of all this that happened Saturday afternoon at the political rally, we started gathering all the facts together...and then once we started getting reports together, we [drew] a search warrant up to obtain the portion of the video from the rally of the arrest," Carlisle said. "After reviewing that, I felt it was necessary for me to launch an internal investigation into the arrest and removal of Ms. Tisdale from the political rally."
According to Carlisle, it is standard procedure to place a deputy on paid administrative leave when he or she is part of an internal affairs probe.
"All we want to do is find out the true facts. I was not there. We had a lot of different things going on in the county Saturday and I wasn't there at this event," he said. "All I'm hearing is what other people are saying and what my officer told me. I need to go in there and get the facts and make sure we did everything we were supposed to be doing and that we done it right."
Investigators are now setting up interviews with witnesses, including Tisdale, who Carlisle said has agreed to meet with them in connection with the internal affairs review.
"We want to talk to everyone that was there that saw what happened to make sure all of our policies were followed correctly and to make sure the authority to make the arrest was there and how the arrest was handled was done properly," Carlisle said.
Organizers said Tisdale was asked to stop recording the event at the request of property owner Johnny Burt.
When she refused, Burt said he instructed Wooten to make her leave.
"I told him, ‘Have her cut the recorder off.' He went up to her and she refused," Burt said. "Then I told him to get her out. He asked to her leave politely, very politely, and she refused to leave. So he had no choice but to forcefully remove her."
A ruckus ensued when Wooten attempted to escort Tisdale, who calls herself a "citizen journalist," away from the central area where the candidates were speaking.
Though accounts from witnesses differ, a voice recording posted online shows Tisdale screaming for Wooten to identity himself. Later on in the recording, Tisdale can be heard screaming for help from a neighboring building at the popular tourist attraction.
Tisdale admits to protesting her removal.
"Before I knew it, my arm was being forced behind my back and I was being shoved and pushed outside the tent and past the audience and up an incline. I protested. I didn't know who he was," she said.
Wooten was wearing a department-issued black polo shirt with the Dawson County Sheriff's logo on the front left side. He was also wearing a badge and his firearm was visible, according to Carlisle.
Tisdale said she was taken into custody and transported by patrol car to the Dawson County Jail. She was later released on $6,200 bond.
While she has not filed a grievance with the sheriff's office, Tisdale said she received bruises during the arrest, which she described as traumatizing.
"I'm sore along my abdomen area. My husband took me to the doctor to examine me and did an X-ray to see if my pelvic bone was fractured, and it was not, luckily. I do have a lot of pain in that area," she said.
Initially, Carlisle had said Wooten was performing security for the event in his official capacity as a sheriff's deputy.
After speaking with his counsel, Carlisle said he learned that officers working private security jobs are not considered "on duty."
"That is one of the things we have learned in this investigation," he said.