Superintendent’s office concealing facts, won’t say whether officer is still employed
By Kevin Hogencamp
There’s no question that 15-year-old Dougherty High cheerleader Gina Marie Fortt was handcuffed to the bleachers in the Monroe High School gym during a junior varsity basketball game on Jan. 22.
The questions are: Why? And, what is been done about it?
On Tuesday, Dougherty County School System officials refused to answer any questions. However, Fortt’s mother, Prell K. Hunter, is seething over the incident and has filed a complaint.
Hunter says it seems that Gina was handcuffed as a “sick joke” by a Monroe school resource officer, Maj. Sheldon Johnson, who had run-ins four years ago with Fortt’s older siblings. Gina was handcuffed for several minutes, perhaps longer than Johnson anticipated, because he did not have a key to the handcuffs, Hunter said.
“My perception of this incident is that it is another attempt of Major Johnson to provoke and harass my family and I,” Hunter said Tuesday.
Hunter said Gina called her from her cell phone while Johnson was trying to find an officer with a handcuff key. A friend took pictures of Gina while she was handcuffed.
“Gina told me she did not like being handcuffed and she didn’t think it was funny,” Hunter said in her complaint. “She also mentioned that Officer Johnson and this other officer thought it was funny and was laughing. She told me they said she was probably a trouble maker.”
“This is confusing to me,” she wrote to Goseer. “My daughter’s civil rights were violated when Maj. Johnson restricted her free movement, and it now appears the school police department is attempting to close ranks. This is a clear case of false arrest and/or false imprisonment. She was restrained without probable cause and without her consent. Please convince me differently.”
Hunter provided two public records on Tuesday that the School System withheld from the Journal – her complaint and a follow-up letter to Assistant Schools Superintendent Kenneth Goseer on Feb. 9. She says that an investigator, Julius C. Phillips, met with her on Jan. 24, but that school system officials have not responded to her since.
Hunter said Phillips told her during their meeting that Johnson’s act wasn’t criminal, but rather was “an administrative error.”
“Please assist me with this matter,” Hunter wrote to Goseer. “I had a horrible ordeal with my two older children at Albany High with Officer Johnson, however by God’s Grace, we are still standing. I have no tolerance or patience for Officer Johnson, I can only pray for him like my Pastor told me yesterday. So you see this is on my heart. Gina is a good girl, and I will make sure she doesn’t endure any negativity because of past experiences.
Following is Hunter’s complaint:
Per our conversation of 24 January 2011 @ 2:32pm I am formally writing to explain the subject incident to you.
At approximately 0830 the morning of January 22, 2011 I dropped my daughter, Miss Gina Marie Fortt (age 15) at Monroe High School to cheer at the Junior Varsity Basketball game.
Gina is currently a Sophomore attending Dougherty Comprehensive High School.
I missed a phone call from Gina at approximately 1021am and Gina called me back at 1043am.
Gina said, “Momma I tried to call you but you didn’t pick up your phone!”
My response was WHAT’S Wrong? (Gina doesn’t call me sounding anxious).
Gina said, “Officer Johnson, a Resource Officer at Monroe High School just hand-cuffed me to the bleachers”.
My response was, “FOR WHAT, are you still handcuffed?!!!” Gina told me no and that Chelsea took a picture of her handcuffed to the bleachers. (I have the picture).
Gina told me she didn’t know why Officer Johnson handcuffed her but she guess he called himself playing but she didn’t think it was funny. She also said, “Momma you told me to call you if something goes wrong, and momma this was wrong”. I assured Gina she did the right thing and that I was on my way.
I told Gina before I get there (MONROE) tell me exactly what happened.
Gina went on to explain that the squad was cheering and Officer Johnson walked up and asked, “Why is it just three of you all?” Gina’s response to him was, “Could you please stay over there” (basically motioning (with her hand) for him to move out of their way).
Gina said, “Officer Johnson said, “Come here let me talk to you” and began to walk towards her so she stopped walking and he grabbed her arm and proceeded to walk over to the bleachers and handcuffed her to the bleachers. She did ask him what are you doing?
Gina said, “Momma I told Officer Johnson that I was going to call Prell Kay Hunter” and Officer Johnson’s response was, “Go ahead, call your momma”.
She said she was embarrassed and upset and that’s when she told him, “I know my rights and this is police brutality and harassment, take these handcuffs off!!” She did tell me she was mad.
Gina said Officer Johnson left her standing there for a couple of minutes because he didn’t have his key (for the handcuffs) and had to get a key from another officer that was in the gym.
She then told me that one of the other Cheerleaders had taken a picture and that is when the Junior Varsity Cheerleading coach, Ms. Salisbury asked what was going on. She said she explained to Ms. Salisbury what had taken place (which Gina said Officer Johnson was playing because she hadn’t done anything wrong). She said Ms. Salisbury told her she could sit down for a few minutes.
Now Gina told me she did not like being handcuffed and she didn’t think it was funny. She also mentioned that Officer Johnson and this other officer thought it was funny and was laughing. She told me they said she was probably a trouble maker.
When I arrived at the gym I did not see Officer Johnson and did not go looking for him either. Once I saw Ms. Salisbury she explained to me that she was not present but Gina did tell her that Officer Johnson was playing.
I told Ms. Salisbury that Officer Johnson and I have some history when he was working Albany High School). (All information referencing Albany High School can be provided upon request).
Please consider this: There is NO justification for Officer Johnson’s actions. I will assure you that all of my children (biological and my extra children (my children’s friends) know I don’t play. I am the type of person that won’t get on their level I uplift them.
Ms. Salisbury is the Junior Varsity Cheerleading Coach and works at Albany Middle School. (I may have misspelled her name).
My perception of this situation is that Officer Johnson is trying to provoke me and harass my family, however because I am not trying to have any interaction with him I did not confront him at Monroe. He is very slick. When Gina called me it brought back a rush of emotions (heartache and pain). I am a Honorably discharged Veteran of the United States Air Force and have continued to serve my country as a DoD Civilian for the last 21 years with a total of 25 years of Federal Service. Young people have enough to go thru and my family and I have had enough of Officer Johnson.