Local officers receive indictments stemming from BikeFest incident

Published 3:58 pm Thursday, July 10, 2014

Two Decatur County Sherriff’s Office officers, a former Decatur County deputy and a Grady County deputy have been indicted for civil rights violations and obstruction of justice.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia grand jury handed down the indictment on charges stemming from an incident at the 2012 Bainbridge BikeFest.

A seven-count indictment was returned charging former Grady County Sheriff’s Deputy Wiley Griffin IV and Decatur County Sheriff’s Office Captain Elizabeth Croley with violating the rights of Bainbridge resident Aaron Ronnie Parrish at the motorcycle festival.

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Croley, Decatur County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Kines and former Decatur County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Wade Umbach were also charged with obstructive conduct during the investigation of the civil rights violation.

Following the release of the indictment Wednesday evening, Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin offered his support of the officers and said their names would be cleared.

“I believe in those four officers, they are four very good people,” Griffin said. “I’m behind them 100 percent. I believe in the federal judicial system. Their names will be cleared.”

According to a Decatur County incident report, a fight at the BikeFest campgrounds led Parrish to strike Croley in the chest. While attempting to control Parrish, “deputies fought with Ronnie Aaron Parrish at a campsite in between a camper and a trailer,” according to the report. Griffin IV was not included in the incident report summary.

Parrish was arrested for obstruction of an officer and attempting to remove a firearm from a law enforcement officer.

Parrish was convicted for the obstruction charge in February 2013 and sentenced to three years of probation and a $1,000 fine. He was found not guilty for the charge of removal of weapon from public official.

Wednesday’s indictment charges Griffin IV with using excessive force during Parrish’s arrest and violating his civil rights. According to a press release by the U.S. Department of Justice, Parrish sustained injuries to his face, including cuts, bleeding, swelling and bruising.

The Justice Department’s release said the indictment also cites Croley, Kines and Umbach with writing false reports to cover up the assault. In addition, Kines and Umbach were charged with making misleading statements to the FBI to obstruct the agency’s investigation into the use of force against Parrish, according to the press release.

“My officers have not lied to the FBI or any federal authority,” Griffin said. “I am familiar with this case. They did their job and they will be exonerated, no doubt about it.”

Griffin said Croley and Kines would be assigned to desk duty during the remainder of the investigation.

“We will treat it like any other serious matter,” Griffin said. “We will always tell the truth and do the right thing, and when you do that, everything takes care of itself.”