A Maury County school resource officer fired for using excessive force on an 11-year-old boy defended himself Tuesday morning before a civil service board.
Tim Byrdsong was fired on Dec. 14 after a student’s mother complained to the sheriff’s department that the E.A. Cox Middle School SRO used excessive force against her son on Nov. 30. Video appeared to show Byrdsong body slamming the middle-schooler.
In addition to being an SRO, Byrdsong is a pastor and the Maury County president of the NAACP.
The 27-year-old said he still wants to be a law enforcement officer. He watched the video of his actions that day and testified in front of the civil service board in an effort to get his job back and explained why he did what he did.
“My position is to work as a law enforcement officer to build myself up and get more training even,” he said. “My biggest thing is to leave people better than how I found them.”
Outside his civil service hearing, he told News 2 he stands behind his actions that day.
“In that moment, I told that child to stop multiple times,” he said. “I deflected him, I pushed him back and he still came again, so the quickest way to stop a threat is to put that threat on the ground and to secure the hands. I’m sorry it caused the child some kind of discomfort.”
According to Byrdson, the boy was about to harm another student for the fourth time. The SRO said he took the actions he did to protect that student and others in the hallway.
“I would have been more upset with myself, and I believe the parents and anyone else, if the safety of that building was compromised because I let a child attack another child – not only a first time but a second time, a third time and a fourth time and to allow that child to be injured from that assault, so I took that amount of force to stop and neutralize that aggression,” he said.
During the hearing, Byrdsong repeatedly told the board the boy was not injured and instead called it discomfort.
The video shows the pre-teen lying motionless for many moments before finally standing. When he does, he is wobbly.
According to Sheriff Bucky Rowland, the child was treated for a concussion. Byrdsong said that was surprising to him since the boy was communicating to him during the incident and was cleared by the school nurse.
Sheriff Rowland, who spoke to the boy’s mother, said the 11-year-old thought he had been slammed against the wall and has no memory of what happened immediately after the body slam.
“That child was in discomfort after that, and that’s what I apologize for. However, in order to protect the students and staff of that building, I have to do that,” Byrdsong said.
Sheriff Rowland told the board that the continuum of force was violated by Byrdsong and said the deputy was not in fear for himself and could have easily calmed the situation in many ways before body slamming the child.
“The threat was not neutralized. We can see within the video – the student came back again with his fists balled up. That’s what I saw then and that is what the video shows is that he had an aggressive tendency,” Byrdsong countered.
The board ultimately voted 4-1 against Byrdsong being reinstated. His attorney said he plans to appeal the decision.
News 2 has also learned the district attorney is considering presenting the case to the grand jury.
While watching the video of the incident Tuesday, Sheriff Rowland told the board, “I cannot justify that one bit and anyone who can justify that or can’t see they did something wrong, something is incorrect with their thinking and the rationalism of that person.”
He continued, “You don’t deal with grown men on the street like this, much less an 11-year-old five feet tall and 110 pounds. Deputy Birdsong cuts him off and he turns the student and takes four or five shuffle steps away. He could mash him to the ground, he could keep escorting him down the hall – any number of things. He could cuff him right there, but he chose to pick this student up above his shoulder and slam him to the ground, and I cannot condone that. As much as I care about Timothy [Byrdsong], I appreciate him in all his efforts and all he does in this community, but I cannot condone that. If that was my chief deputy, he would be terminated.”
Byrdsong said, “Something you can look at – hindsight is 20/20. We cannot Monday morning quarterback our police. All we can do is look at them through the eyes that they have during the situation in that moment. When I look at it now, I think it was necessary. I am sorry this happened. I never wake up to use force against a child.”