Danny Mayberry lies in a Tennessee hospital bed in early Feburary after his family says he was beaten by a Cherokee County, NC, sheriff's deputy. His sister, Georgia Tanner, posted these images to social media.
Danny Mayberry lies in a Tennessee hospital bed in early February after his family says he was beaten by a Cherokee County, NC, sheriff's deputy. His sister, Georgia Tanner, posted these images to social media. Courtesy of Georgia Tanner

A Cherokee County sheriff’s deputy remains on active duty more than a week after a woman says he beat her brother so badly he may lose an eye.

The district attorney says the Sheriff’s Office failed to notify her. She plans to ask the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the incident, she said late Tuesday.

Pictures on social media show Danny Mayberry, 56, lying in a Tennessee hospital bed earlier this month with a bloody, bruised and broken face. Red fluid leaks from a black-and-blue eye, swollen shut. His bloody nose is wrenched to the side.

Mayberry’s sister, Georgia Tanner, said a deputy with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office beat him so badly he had to be flown to Erlanger Hospital in Tennessee and spent the night in the hospital.

Family members have said Detective Michael “Tyler” Faggard was involved in the Feb. 6 incident, but whether any other deputy was on the scene was unclear.

Four days later, on Feb. 10, Tanner, Mayberry and his wife met with Sheriff Derrick Palmer to talk about the incident, Tanner said.

“The sheriff apologized,” she told CPP. “He said it was ‘overkill’ and they were going to do an internal investigation.”

She said she showed Palmer pictures of his injuries the night of the altercation, and he looked surprised.

Palmer told CPP that he found out about the incident during the meeting with the family and requested an investigation into the incident afterward. He hopes to issue a press release about the investigation by the end of this week, he said.

Detective Faggard is “not on leave at this time, but that decision could change depending on what the internal investigation may show,” Palmer said.

Cherokee County Human Resources Director Melody Johnson said neither Faggard nor any other sheriff’s officers have been placed on leave since the incident occurred.

Circumstances of the incident

Turbulent weather, landslides, flooding and widespread power outages plagued Cherokee County and nearby mountainous areas in early February.

On Feb. 6, Mayberry had gotten a new four-wheel-drive vehicle and he wanted to drive it to see how it would handle, Tanner said. Then he got stuck.

She said he called his wife, whom he asked to call 911 for help. After that, his phone died.

A good Samaritan helped him get going again, and he drove home so his wife wouldn’t worry, Tanner said.

Mayberry said as soon as he got home, an officer approached his truck.

“I didn’t get out of my truck,” he said. “(The deputy) jumps out of his vehicle and comes up to mine, grabs me and asks me who I am. I tell him, and he said, ‘I want to show you how a misdemeanor feels.’”

Mayberry said, “He just started waling me and said I was misusing a 911 call. He started hitting me, and the next thing I know, it was lights out.”

Palmer said he learned about the incident four days later, during the meeting with Mayberry’s family.

When asked why it took him four days to find out, Palmer said, “All I can say to that is that we respond to about 40,000 calls per year and I cannot know everything that is happening in live time. I can only deal with things as they are reported to me.”

Palmer said Mayberry was charged with a misdemeanor, “resist, obstruct and delay,” which state law says is an offense when someone resists an officer or prevents an officer from doing his or her duties.

When asked why police had contacted Mayberry to begin with, Palmer declined to answer.

“I am going to reserve any further comment that would involve the investigation until a press release is issued later this week (hopefully),” Palmer wrote.

Tanner said she was surprised to hear the Sheriff’s Office was charging her brother with “resist, obstruct and delay.”

“My brother has never resisted arrest,” Tanner said. “Never caused them a bit of trouble. He has run a couple of times, but resisting once they caught him? Never.”

SBI and DA informed?

Palmer said his office has “spoken to the (State Bureau of Investigation) of there being an internal investigation, but no formal notifications will occur with the SBI or (district attorney) until we complete our investigation and have facts to present.”

An initial version of this article cited SBI spokeswoman Angie Grube denying that the agency had heard from Sheriff Palmer’s office. However, Grube has since notified CPP that the information she provided Tuesday was incorrect on this point, and a member of the sheriff’s staff did reach out to them about an assault involving an officer that was under internal investigation.

Grube said, in cases like this, the SBI does not have jurisdiction to investigate without a request from a chief, sheriff or district attorney.

District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch said when a deputy is involved in an altercation with someone, “I should have known immediately.”

It’s been nearly two weeks since the incident occurred, and Welch said Palmer has still not notified her about it.

“This has never happened before where we have not been informed of an allegation by the law enforcement agency that’s being accused,” Welch said. “We have an obligation to make sure that allegations are investigated appropriately.”

Now, she said, she has no choice but to contact the SBI to request a criminal investigation.

“I won’t wait for the sheriff,” she said.

Allegations of excessive force by a law enforcement officer are uncommon to begin with, she said. But when they occur, the law enforcement agency is supposed to contact her office as soon as possible after the incident.

“We then reach out to the N.C. SBI and we usually (do a criminal investigation) jointly,” Welch said.

A criminal investigation by the SBI is completely separate from an internal investigation by a Sheriff’s Office. The SBI looks to see whether a crime was committed, while an internal investigation determines whether the deputy violated policy and should remain employed there.

Welch said any other time excessive force has been alleged, the criminal and internal investigations have happened at the same time.

So far, Welch said, Mayberry has not come to her office to report the behavior.

“He has not done anything wrong by that,” Welch said. “But it’s unusual that we get word from a press agency about this before we hear from either the person making the complaint or from law enforcement themselves.”

Criminal records show Mayberry was on probation in the early 1990s for driving while intoxicated and served a few months in state prison for driving with a revoked license. He has also served probation for a variety of misdemeanors and has spent time in the Cherokee County Detention Center pending trial for various alleged offenses over the years.

Did deputy follow use-of-force policies

CPP requested a copy of the use-of-force report from the incident, but Palmer denied the request, saying it was part of a personnel record.

The Sheriff’s Office policies say officers can use nondeadly force, such as hitting someone with fists or using certain restraining holds, to defend themselves from what the officer believes is “imminent use of physical force” while attempting an arrest.

Officers can also use nondeadly force to prevent someone from escaping police custody.

After a deputy uses force, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office policy says, the officer should immediately contact his or her supervisor and document the use of force on a form by the end of the shift.

That supervisor is then tasked with investigating the use of force and contacting witnesses.

“There’s no excuse whatsoever for that detective to beat my brother that way,” Tanner said. “My brother is going to lose an eye on account of this. He has several fractures in his face.”

In addition to losing his eye, she said, Mayberry will have to have reconstructive surgery on his nose as a result of the beating.

Clarification: This article has been revised to clarify the nature of communications between the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation, which took place before Tuesday. A spokesperson for the SBI has said that her previous denial of any communication between the agencies about the incident was incorrect.

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Kate Martin is lead investigative reporter for Carolina Public Press. Email her at kmartin@carolinapublicpress.org.

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