Cherokee County sheriff's squad car
A sheriff's squad car parked outside the Cherokee County Detention Center in Murphy. Colby Rabon / Carolina Public Press

A detective was following department policy when he struck Cherokee County resident Danny Mayberry in early February, Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer said in a statement released late Friday.

However, the sheriff’s internal investigation only pertains to Detective Tyler Faggard’s continued employment. District Attorney Ashley Welch has formally asked for a State Bureau of Investigation criminal probe into the assault, she told Carolina Public Press earlier Friday.

The seven-page document from the sheriff includes overlapping and contradictory narratives from several people. One section, which is not attributed to anyone, describes an altercation between Mayberry and two deputies that did not appear in any of the other accounts.

According to all accounts and previous interviews, Mayberry had been missing for much of the afternoon on Feb. 6. His wife, Katherine Mayberry,  called 911 out of concern, resulting in hours of unsuccessful searching for him. When Mayberry returned to his home late that night, Faggard met him in the driveway. From there, the accounts of what occurred go in different directions.

The sheriff’s statement says that after exchanging words with Mayberry, Faggard left the scene but returned a short time later and observed Mayberry struggling with two other deputies.

According to the sheriff, Faggard was trying to help the deputies when he tried to strike Mayberry’s brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves that runs through the neck, and mistakenly struck his left cheek.

Mayberry’s account of the situation in multiple interviews with CPP has made no mention of deputies other than Faggard. According to the sheriff’s statement, officers interviewing Mayberry several days later, after his family visited the sheriff’s office to complain about the incident, asked whether he had touched any of the deputies, which Mayberry denied.

In interviews with CPP, Mayberry indicated Faggard struck him before leaving the scene, describing the punch as “lights out.”

Discussing the circumstances earlier Friday with CPP, Mayberry said, “I thought (Faggard) was mad because he had to come looking for me and it was raining on him.”

Neither the sheriff nor the Mayberry family could be reached for further clarification after the release of the sheriff’s statement, which contained previously unpublicized details nearly two weeks after the incident, along with complaints about the news media’s efforts to understand what had happened.

Asked several times this week whether the incident involved officers other than Faggard, Palmer told CPP that only Faggard was under internal investigation.

Medical prognosis

Earlier this week, Mayberry said he thought he might lose his eye as a result of being struck by the detective.

Lurid photos posted to social media earlier this month showed his left eye swollen shut and nose wrenched to the side.

Shortly after their Feb. 10 meeting with the sheriff, Mayberry and his wife were in a serious car crash and were hospitalized for several days.

Mayberry said Friday that his eye, which was injured during the altercation with the detective and not during the later car accident, remains “very damaged” and he expects to have surgery on it soon.

Mayberry’s sister, Georgia Tanner, said her brother “will always have trouble seeing out of that eye.”

Independent investigation

Earlier Friday, Welch said she had declined to view the sheriff’s internal investigation. She told CPP it would be inappropriate for her to view the internal report at this time.

“The appropriate thing for everyone is that a criminal investigation take place,” Welch said. “It’s a grievous allegation and needs to be looked into.

“That’s the benefit of having an independent law enforcement agency investigate something like this. If he didn’t do this, then in order for him to be really exonerated in the public’s eye, you have to have an independent agency investigate this — not the Sheriff’s Office.”

After Mayberry, his wife and Tanner met with the sheriff and some of Palmer’s employees on Feb. 10, the Monday following the incident, Palmer said the Sheriff’s Office had opened an internal investigation into what happened.

But an internal investigation is a personnel matter, which examines whether a law enforcement officer should remain employed or should otherwise be sanctioned for behavior. It does not assess any possible criminal actions, Welch said.

Welch previously said nobody from Palmer’s office contacted her or any of her assistant district attorneys about the incident involving Mayberry and Faggard, which she said they should have done.

Palmer’s news release says his office reached out to an assistant district attorney on Feb. 18 to request a meeting with Welch. But the DA disputed that during an earlier conversation with CPP.

“After the article broke, and only after the article broke, did his office reach out to my office,” Welch said, referring to media coverage of the incident, which appeared Wednesday, Feb. 19.

“It would be inappropriate for my office to meet (Palmer’s) at this time before a criminal investigation is completed.”

Welch also said a sheriff releasing a press release about an internal matter that is now under criminal investigation is “a bit unusual.”

Palmer’s administration contacted the SBI shortly after the meeting with the family on Feb. 10 but told the agent the sheriff’s office was investigating it as an internal matter.

SBI spokeswoman Angie Grube said earlier this week that the SBI doesn’t investigate criminally unless requested by a chief, sheriff or district attorney.

Charges against Mayberry?

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

But Mayberry told CPP early Friday that he didn’t think he had been charged with anything.

According to the sheriff’s statement, Mayberry had been handcuffed at one point, but the handcuffs were removed after he was struck in the face. No mention was made of any charges against him.

The sheriff’s statement also repeatedly mentioned that Mayberry had consumed a substantial amount of alcohol earlier on Feb. 6 and smelled of it that evening when he arrived home. However, he has not been charged with drunken driving and was apparently not administered a breath test when he drove into his driveway.

His sister later told CPP that his toxicology screen later that night at the hospital did not indicate that he was over the legal limit.

The sheriff’s news release concluded that Faggard was justified in his actions, implying in part that Mayberry’s criminal history was a factor.

“Detective Faggard saw two deputies in a vulnerable position fighting with an intoxicated and combative felon,” the news release’s conclusion reads. “Detective Faggard was unsure if Mayberry had a weapon or was trying to get the officers’ weapon.”

While Mayberry does have a long list of prior convictions for nonviolent misdemeanors, the only felony on his record in North Carolina is a nonviolent financial crime dating to 1980, when he was 16 years old.

Mayberry said nothing he did that night should have warranted such a reaction from a law enforcement officer.

“I haven’t been a model citizen all my life, but I always gave myself up to the law, and I did my time,” Mayberry told CPP.

Sheriff’s statement

Sheriff Palmer released the following statement at 5:54 p.m. Friday:

Palmer Press Release Mayberry (Text)

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