A former Atlanta area teacher, Tim Garner, grabbed a 17-year-old student by the throat and slammed him on a table in 2017. Video footage released by the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office, obtained by WSB-TV, shows the disturbing altercation that led to Garner’s resignation and felony criminal charges.
Here’s what you need to know about Tim Garner:
1. Garner Is Shown on Surveillance Video Grabbing a Young Man by the Neck & Slamming Him Onto a Table
On April 17, 2017, an altercation broke out in the cafeteria of Lumpkin County Alternative School, a school for kids who have had problems at other schools within the Lumpkin County school district.
The incident started after Garner witnessed the victim and two other students passing around a styrofoam box. Garner says he asked the students to leave the cafeteria. Two of the students leave, but as the 17-year-old victim got up to leave, Garner attacks him.
The clip shows Garner grab the student and push him down onto a cafeteria table. Garner proceeds to put his right hand on the students neck. Throughout the interaction, the student tries desperately to escape from Garner by kicking and flailing his arms and legs. Garner continues to hold onto the student as he drags him across the long table. When the student almost breaks free, near the end of the other side of the table, Garner pins him down again. At the end of the clip, the student appears to fall off the side of the table with Garner still forcefully holding onto him.
The altercation lasted nearly a minute.
2. Garner Says He Acted in Self-Defense & Claims the Student had a Violent Past That Led Him to Believe He Was in Danger
Speaking with WSB-TV’s Michael Selden, Garner showed no remorse for his actions and claimed he acted in self-defense.
“I was in fear of a head-butt or something like that or carrying something,” Garner told Selden. Garner claims that the student didn’t say anything to provoke him, but that the student put his hand on him. “He was right up on me.”
“The next thing, I just wanted to control his hitting hand. He’s right hand dominant and that’s all he hits with. I’ve never seen him throw a punch with his left hand,” Garner said.
3. The Student’s Attorney Thoroughly Rebuked Garner’s Claim of Self-Defense & the Victim’s Supposed History of Violence
After the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office released the surveillance footage, the student’s attorney hit back at Garner’s version of events in a statement:
Coach Garner’s assertions that my client is a troubled and violent youth is absurd, as is the assertion that my client initiated any contact with him. The truth of the matter, as the video clearly shows, is that Coach Garner decided to subdue and choke a child for almost 50 seconds as a method of exercising discretionary discipline for a minor infraction in the lunchroom. We expect Coach Garner to be held accountable and take responsibility for his lapse in judgment, and for the School District to do the right thing in settling the civil claims that will follow the criminal prosecution.
4. Garner Was Arrested in May 2017 on Charges of First Degree Cruelty to Children & Simple Battery
Following the incident, the school board turned over footage to the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office. Garner resigned shortly after the event, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
According to Garner’s LinkedIn page, he started working at Lumpkin County Schools in 2003. Since 2003, he has also spent time working in the Hall County School district.
Lumpkin County superintendent Rob Brown said that Garner never stepped foot in the building again after the school district learned of the altercation. “His actions were disappointing and absolutely unacceptable for any employee in any school district,” Brown said.
Garner turned himself into Lumpkin County Detention Center on May 1 without incident and was booked on charges of first degree cruelty to children and simple battery. His bond was set at $7,700.
A felony charge of cruelty to children in Georgia, if convicted, carries a sentence of 5-20 years in prison. If convicted of simple battery in Georgia, it can result in a one year sentence and $1,000 fine.
5. Another Lumpkin County Teacher Was Arrested Around the Same Time for a Separate Incident
Around the same time Garner was arrested, a Lumpkin County High School teacher, Flavio Colunga, was arrested on charges of child molestation, sexual assault, and sexual battery. A 14-year-old female student alleged that Colunga, 36, touched her inappropriately. Authorities said that two more students made allegations against Colunga after his arrest.
Colunga’s attorney, A.J. Richman, denied the charges on behalf of Colunga in an email to AccessWDUN. “My client is a family man, a father, a husband, a coach, and a teacher. The community supports him. And I plan to prove this allegation and arrest are baseless,” Richman wrote.