By Clint Confehr
COLUMBIA, TN — While considering his options, a former school resource officer denies using unnecessary force when he protected a sixth-grade boy from a bully.
Maury County’s Civil Service Board on Jan. 8 voted 4-1 to confirm Sheriff Bucky Rowland’s dismissal of T.D. “Donte” Byrdsong in December, Byrdsong and Rowland said.
“We’re still going through a process; waiting and praying that the truth will come out,” Byrdsong said.
Byrdsong is an American Baptist College student, a pastor, and the NAACP branch president here.
“No one wins in this situation,” Rowland said Tuesday. “It’s a very, very unfortunate incident … Deputy Byrdsong is a good man. He’s done a lot of good things in his time serving here at the Sheriff’s Department … I had to make the decision that I felt best that would best represent me and this department in how we go out and serve our citizens.”
Byrdsong’s attorney, Doak Patton, can file a civil appeal, and District Attorney Brent Cooper might present charges to a grand jury. No charge was filed by Tuesday afternoon.
In this story, the “bully” is Quentin; the victim, Juan.
Quentin “assaulted Juan two times” Nov. 30 and earlier, Byrdsong said. In a fourth incident, “I intervened and stood between [them at the gym]. Quentin broke the hold of a teacher and ran back in an attempt to assault Juan again. I was between the two, talking with Juan. When I looked up, I saw Quentin … deflected him with an open hand … [He] attempted to assault Juan again … I grabbed him and took him to the floor.”
WKRN and The (Columbia) Daily Herald quote Rowland from the board hearing: “You don’t deal with grown men on the street like this…
“Byrdsong cuts him off … turns the student and takes four or five shuffle steps away,” Rowland reportedly said, suggesting other controls, including handcuffs. But Byrdsong “chose to pick this student up above his shoulder and slam him to the ground.”
Asked about Rowland, Byrdsong said, “I really enjoyed working with [him] and his officers. I respect the leadership position … I have no ill things to say about [him] … In his opinion, the force used to defend and protect one child from a bully was excessive, contrary to [testimony of] Melvin Brown, an expert witness” who spoke to the Civil Service Board.
“Quentin has a history of violent and aggressive behavior,” Byrdsong said. “He’d already assaulted other students. This is a bully.”
Quentin’s parent alleged he suffered a concussion.
Of more than a dozen Maury SROs, only one is a woman, Byrdsong said. To his knowledge, he is the county’s second black SRO. Now, there’s none.
Maury County was 57 percent white, 41 percent black and 3.26 percent Hispanic in 2000.
Byrdsong, 27, started as a correctional officer in October 2017 at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. He was certified by the Police Officers Standards and Training Commission in spring 2018. He became an SRO in spring 2018, was a patrol deputy during summer break, and resumed SRO work last fall. His salary was nearly $16 per hour.
“There’s some financial hardship for lack of employment,” said Byrdsong, executive pastor of Grace United Baptist Church, Columbia.