Officers verbally reprimanded over handling of alleged child attack

by: Mike Petchenik Updated:

ALPHARETTA, Ga.,None —

Two Alpharetta police officers have received verbal reprimands for the way they handled an investigation into the alleged attack of a 4-year-old girl at a park last month, but outside investigators found no evidence the officers covered up for the suspect, whose wife is a city councilwoman.

Christole Abdelmaseh told Alpharetta Police officers that Paul Oakes yanked her daughter Hadassah out of a swing at Wills Park. Oakes denies touching the girl.

Officers Chris Massey and Matt Burger were sent to the scene. According to documents obtained by Channel 2's Mike Petchenik, Massey interviewed Oakes, while Burger questioned Abdelmaseh.

Neither officer completed a formal incident report, but one did enter notes into a Computer Aided Dispatch system.

Because the officers said Oakes denied the allegations and that they couldn't find any witnesses to the incident, no charges were filed and Oakes wasn't arrested.

Acting on complaints from Abdelmaseh that the officers didn't handle the investigation well, Alpharetta asked Sandy Springs to conduct an internal affairs investigation. Petchenik got a copy of the findings Tuesday.

"No police report was written and the call was cleared with no action taken," Sgt. J.H. Mullin noted. "Officer Burger completed the CAD notes, which were both incomplete and incorrect."

Mullin pointed out that there was miscommunication between the officers about Oakes' statement.

Oakes said he told police he never touched the girl, yet the CAD notes stated he had removed her from the swing.

He also noted that Massey never asked Oakes for his name, and only referred to him in reports as "the man in the yellow shirt."

Both officers denied knowing who Oakes was or that he was married to Cheryl Oakes.

"The evidence did not uncover any evidence that the officers knew that the suspect was Mr. Oakes," Mullins wrote.

In a memo obtained by Petchenik, Department of Public Safety Director Gary George sustained two of eight complaints against the officers, including one for not seeking out independent witnesses, and one for failing to obtain "necessary" information.

The officers were also reprimanded for the inconsistencies in their reports.

City officials said both officers had no previous infractions and that two more policy violations could result in a suspension.

"They're getting a verbal warning, which is nothing," Abdelmaseh told Petchenik. "My kids wouldn't even learn from a verbal warning."

Abdelmaseh said she was disappointed with the criminal and internal affairs investigations.

"I'm not just going to let this stuff go," she said. "I don't let my kids get away with things. I'm not going to let other people get away with doing things to my children."

Oakes' private investigator, T.J. Ward, told Petchenik his client continues to deny any wrongdoing. He said Oakes didn't do anything for officers to cover up.

"I think they knew there was nothing to this, and I don't think there was any political downplay on their part," he told Petchenik. "I don't think they knew who Mr. Oakes was when they answered the call."

GBI spokesman John Bankhead said his agency is still investigating the criminal aspect of the case and will soon be turning its findings over to the Fulton County  solicitor's office to determine whether Oakes should face charges.