Montravious Thomas was “restrained” — not “body-slammed,” as his lawyers contend — during the confrontation he had 19 months ago with a Muscogee County School District contracted behavior specialist, according to the Columbus Police Department’s final report in its investigation.
The CPD complied with the Ledger-Enqurer's open records request and released the Montravious case file Monday through the city attorney’s office.
Montravious’ mother, Lawanda Thomas, claimed that the boy, then 13, was body-slammed five times on Sept. 12, 2016. His lawyers say his injury that day, after multiple surgeries, resulted in his right leg being amputated below the knee.
Last week, in response to the L-E’s query, the Columbus Consolidated Government disclosed that the CPD had concluded its investigation the previous week and found no evidence of criminal misconduct.
Lawyers for Montravious and his mother filed in March 2017 a $25 million lawsuit against the contracted behavior specialist, Bryant Mosley; his employer at the time, Mentoring and Behavioral Services of Columbus; and Muscogee County School District officials. The case is pending in state court.
The police investigation was led by Lt. Consuelo Askew, who was working part-time as an MCSD security officer at the Edgewood Student Services Center when Montravious was attending his first day at the AIM (Achievement, Integrity, Maturity) program, an alternative school for students with severe discipline violations. That’s when Montravious had his confrontation with Mosley.
Montravious’ lawyers, Forrest Johnson and Renee Tucker of Atlanta-based Forrest B. Johnson & Associates, have called Askew’s role in the investigation a conflict of interest and last week filed a motion to add her as a defendant in the case.
According to Askew’s final CPD report, filed April 2, she met on March 17 with District Attorney Julia Slater and Assistant DAs Don Kelly and George Lipscomb to discuss her findings.
Askew used the word “restraints” to describe the five times Mosley made physical contact with Montravious — not the “body-slam” term the plaintiff’s lawyers have used.
She interviewed Mosley, assistant principal Eddie Powell, who was in charge of Edgewood while the principal was absent that day, special-education teacher Zehra Malone and paraprofessional Phyllis Fox, according to the report. They also are defendants in the lawsuit, along with superintendent David Lewis and bus driver Gisela Huggins.
Askew, however, wrote, “Tucker refused to allow Montravious to be interviewed by detectives, the Child Advocacy Center (Children’s Treehouse) or myself.” Montravious’ lawyers said during their April 10 news conference that Askew’s conflict of interest is why they haven’t allowed police to interview Montravious or see his medical records.
In the redacted three-page final report, the reason Montravious was assigned to the AIM program is blacked out, along with the succeeding paragraphs in Askew’s narrative, from the middle of the second page to the middle of the third page. Marcia Smith, paralegal to the city attorney, explained in her cover letter to the Ledger-Enquirer that documents were redacted pursuant to the following exceptions under the Georgia Open Records Act:
▪ Medical records.
▪ Personal identifying information.
▪ Behavioral records and photographs obtained from an educational institution.
▪ Information pertaining to minors provided to law enforcement agencies.
But, as the Ledger-Enquirer reported in October 2017, according to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission case file, Fox wrote that Montravious “attempted to leave the classroom several times, door and window” and Mosley “tried talking the student out of his behavior. Student picked up property that did not belong to him. Walked on furniture.”
Mosley “wrapped his arms around the student and took him to the ground multiple times,” Fox wrote. “He spoke to him to calm him down, and I set timer when asked. Each time he was released, the student tried something else, threats of spitting/dustpan handle.”
Montravious was the only student in Room 109 at Edgewood, where Malone was his teacher, Fox was his paraprofessional, Mosley was his behavioral specialist, and Powell was the assistant principal, the lawsuit says.
MCSD allowed Montravious’ lawyers to view the 25-minute video of the confrontation that they have said shows the body-slamming. The video also shows, the lawsuit says, that nobody intervened, and Mosley outweighed Montravious “by at least 100 pounds.”
The lawsuit contends Montravious “was not a danger to himself or any others in the classroom.”
Following the body-slamming, according to the lawsuit, Montravious told Mosley, Malone, Fox and Powell “that his right leg was injured and that he couldn’t walk,” but “no proper medical treatment was provided to or sought for” Montravious by the defendants.
Montravious asked if he could call his mother, the lawsuit says, “but no phone was provided to him.” Powell told Montravious an ambulance was being called, according to the lawsuit. “As time passed and no ambulance arrived,” the lawsuit says, Montravious asked when the ambulance would arrive. He was told they decided to send him home on the bus instead, the lawsuit says.
More than an hour after the body-slamming, according to the lawsuit, Mosley picked up Thomas and carried him out of the classroom, down the hall and out of the school. Malone and Mosley took Montravious to the school bus, according to the lawsuit. Montravious “was required to sit with a broken and unstabilized leg,” the lawsuit says, and Huggins, the driver, didn’t provide medical treatment or report the injury.
Askew, in her final report, wrote, “We agreed that they made a bad and costly decision by not calling for an ambulance, however, there is no evidence that Mosley, Fox or Malone intentionally, maliciously or willfully deprived Montravious Thomas of medical treatment, therefore no charges will be filed.”
The DA’s office and the CPD’s Special Victims Unit concurred that no charges should be filed, the report says.
Askew concluded, “All questions regarding policies and procedures would have to be answered by the Muscogee County School District regarding Mosley, Fox, Malone and Powell pertaining to their actions before, during and after September 12, 2016.
“It should be noted that I was unable to speak with any of the doctors that treated Montravious due to federal laws and the fact that Renee Tucker wanted a court order in order to speak with any of the doctors. By interviewing the doctors, it would have given me a better understanding as to his injury and the amputation of this leg.”
On Oct. 18, 2016, Montravious’ right leg was amputated below the knee in Atlanta. Valerie Fuller, MCSD’s communications director at the time, released a statement then saying “witnesses indicate that the child was up and walking and not in distress following the administered restraint.”
Also during Tuesday’s news conference, Montravious’ lawyers denied what WLTZ reported the previous week. Multiple official sources — who weren’t identified — contend that medical evidence could prove Thomas was severely injured before going to school the day of that confrontation, according to WLTZ.
The plaintiff’s lawyers also said during their news conference last week that they are willing to release the surveillance video that shows the confrontation in the classroom. Since then, however, they haven’t responded to the L-E’s request to accept that offer.
Citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Marcia Smith, paralegal to the city attorney, told the L-E in an email that the CPD would release the video only if Montravious’ parents or lawyers provide written permission. The L-E is waiting for Tucker or Johnson to reply to that request.
Also citing FERPA, MCSD has refused the Ledger-Enquirer’s request to release the classroom video. In January, the Ledger-Enquirer filed a lawsuit demanding MCSD release the classroom surveillance video. The case is pending in Muscogee County Superior Court.