Scott County

Attorney for paralyzed sheriff’s deputy says city councilman made ‘grossly inaccurate comments’

A Georgetown city councilman’s comments about a Scott County sheriff’s deputy who was injured in a shooting have provoked a heated response from the deputy’s attorney.

Deputy Jaime Morales was paralyzed when he was shot by a fellow officer, former Georgetown police officer Joseph Enricco, while they were trying to apprehend a fugitive at a rest area of Interstate 75 on Sept. 11, 2018, according to Morales’ lawsuit against the city. The man they were trying to arrest, Edward Reynolds, died in the confrontation with police.

In addition to the city, Morales filed the lawsuit last week against the Georgetown Police Department, the mayor, each of the city council members, a Georgetown police lieutenant and Enricco, who has resigned from the police department.

During Monday night’s Georgetown City Council meeting, Councilman Marvin Thompson could be heard apparently discussing Morales’ case with fellow council member Polly Singer-Eardley during a lull in the official business.

“I mean, we’ve already gave him a million dollars, a new home, a new car, a . . . lot,” Thompson said.

A live microphone picked up the audio as the meeting was broadcast on public access television. A video showing the exchange was shared on Facebook by Brad Penn, an unsuccessful 2018 Georgetown City Council candidate.

Thompson said Tuesday afternoon that he meant that “the community and them has done all this,” not that the city had.

The community held a number of fundraisers for Morales after the shooting, including a benefit day at Bojangles and Raising Cane’s restaurants in Georgetown, a 217 Strong Festival and more.

Thompson said he should not have been discussing the lawsuit.

Morales’ attorney, Elliott Miller, said in a statement Tuesday that “we were disturbed by the grossly inaccurate comments” Thompson made.

He said Morales has not received any money from the city of Georgetown or any of the other defendants.

“The only money Morales has received is from the extremely generous donations made by the people in the community,” which Miller said “do not even equal a quarter of the million dollars Mr. Thompson claims the city, or others, have paid.”

Miller said Morales lives “in a small apartment that is not designed, or equipped, for Morales or his significant needs.”

And he said Morales has bought a vehicle equipped for people who are paralyzed using donations, as well as $30,000 of his own money.

“Morales is making car payments using his own funds,” the statement said. “We were extremely disappointed that Mr. Thompson appears to believe that Morales is to blame for his own catastrophic injuries that he has to live with every moment of his life.”

Morales alleges in the lawsuit that the city of Georgetown did not provide proper training to members of the special response team who were called to help U.S. Deputy Marshal Roger Daniel arrest Reynolds.

An attorney for the city said last week that they will vigorously defend against the suit.

Georgetown’s attorney, Scott Miller, issued a statement Wednesday on behalf of the city in response to Thompson’s statements.

The statement said that “a council member’s personal statements do not reflect any position of the council or the city.”

“Mayor Prather would like to assure the public that the city is grateful for the community’s support of Deputy Morales and all law enforcement, including members of both the Scott County Sheriff’s Department and the Georgetown Police Department. We are hopeful that this support will continue despite the lawsuit,” the statement said. “Although we will provide a proper defense to the City of Georgetown throughout this lawsuit, that does not mean we do not empathize with Deputy Morales.”

Penn, the man who posted the video of Thompson’s comments about Morales on Facebook, also shared video of remarks Thompson made during a break in the meeting when the council was discussing a fairness ordinance.

“I’m going to vote what I think’s right for me,” Thompson told Singer-Eardley in the video shared by Penn. “You’re not going to take my Christian morals and say discrimination. ...My wife said, ‘I don’t care if you want to screw a tree, just keep it in your own d**n house and don’t tell anybody about it’. ... It’s none of our business what you do, don’t put that on us.”

When asked about the remark, Thompson said Tuesday afternoon: “That was a stupid comment, and I apologize. I was wrong for saying it.”

The council passed the fairness ordinance 5 to 3 with Connie Tackett, Todd Stone, Mark Showalter, Tammy Lusby Mitchell and David Lusby voting for the ordinance and Thompson, Singer-Eardley and Karen Tingle-Sames voting against.

The audio during the break, when it appears that Thompson made the comments, has been muted in the video of the meeting that the city of Georgetown posted on YouTube.