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Family questions Coffee Co. arrest caught on camera after suspect hospitalized

Coffee Co. Sheriff's Office deputies arresting Pernell Harris.
Coffee Co. Sheriff's Office deputies arresting Pernell Harris.(WALB)
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 10:23 PM EDT
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DOUGLAS, Ga. (WALB) - A mother is shocked after watching a video showing what appears to be a struggle during her son’s arrest in Coffee County.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is investigating a use of force incident between Coffee County deputies and Pernell Harris, 29, of Douglas.

It all started with a 911 call early Wednesday morning to the Sleepy Hollow Road neighborhood.

Sleepy Hollow Road
Sleepy Hollow Road(WALB)

Agents said deputies came to the aid of a woman in a domestic dispute.

The GBI said the woman reported that Harris was waving a gun near her and her child while under the influence of an unknown drug. That’s when agents said deputies found a gun in Harris’ backpack, then struggled to arrest him.

Harris’s mother, Lisa Williams, who lives out of town, said the family was shocked when they saw the video.

“It was disturbing. I didn’t like it. It really didn’t take all them to come out there and do that just to get a set of keys,” said Williams.

In the video, you can see Harris holding tight to the stair rail and what appears to be him being tased.

In another clip, with multiple deputies, you see Harris is cuffed.

Coffee Co. Sheriff's Office deputies arresting Pernell Harris.
Coffee Co. Sheriff's Office deputies arresting Pernell Harris.(WALB)

Once deputies got Harris to jail, the GBI said Harris became unresponsive and was taken to the hospital.

Harris’ family wants to know what happened in the time in between his handcuffing and hospitalization.

“I’m just wondering what happened to him. They say he passed out when he got to the jailhouse and he was fighting. I’m trying to figure out how you gonna fight with hands cuffed, either from the back, side or whatever,” said Williams.

Williams said they were allowed to see Harris on Friday. She said he was in a coma. She said there was some movement in Haris’ leg recently but he hasn’t opened his eyes or been able to speak yet.

She said they performed a brain scan Monday and they are waiting for the results.

Williams said they’re used to seeing incidents like this on TV, but they never thought it would hit home.

“It hurts, you see it on TV happening to other people but when it happens to you, you just do like a check like, ‘Oh my God, I never thought I would be in this predicament.’ And me and his father wouldn’t think to be where we are at right now,” said Williams.

Williams said they have hired a lawyer.

The Coffee County Sheriff’s Office said it cannot comment right now due to the ongoing investigation.

WALB News 10 has requested body camera footage from the GBI. We’re told our request was received and updates on it will come within a week or so.

Once the GBI completes its investigation, the case will be handed over to the district attorney.

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