LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. — Exclusive video obtained by Channel 2 Action News shows the intense moments when a teacher fought with a student that ultimately cost the teacher his job.
The now-former teacher, Tim Garner, 61, told Channel 2's Michael Seiden that he doesn't regret attacking the student.
On Friday night, the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office released a video that shows, at one point, Garner with his hands around the student's neck.
That incident led to felony charges in 2017.
Prosecutors said Garner crossed the line by grabbing the 17-year-old student by his throat while dragging him down a table in the school cafeteria.
Surveillance video caught the 2017 incident inside Lumpkin County Alternative School, which is an alternative school for students who have gotten into trouble at other schools in the district.
Garner told Seiden on Friday night that he acted in self-defense and has no regrets about his actions.
"I was in fear of a head-butt or something like that or carrying something," Garner said.
“I don’t know if you have children yourself, but when you look at that video, do you justify your actions?” Seiden asked Garner.
“Absolutely,” Garner answered.
Garner said the altercation began after he asked the 17-year-old student, whom he described as a troubled teen with a violent past, to clean up the mess he had made in the cafeteria.
In the video, you can see the student and two others messing around with a Styrofoam box, passing it back and forth.
Then, Garner stands up and asks the other students to exit the cafeteria, but when that 17-year-old tries to leave, things take a turn.
"He didn’t say anything until he put his hand on me and when he did that, I reacted. He was right up on me and when he did that,” Garner said. “The next thing, I just wanted to control his hitting hand. He's right hand dominant and that’s all he hits with. I’ve never seen him throw a punch with his left hand."
On Friday night, the attorney for the student, Zack Tumlin, sent Seiden the following statement:
“Coach Garner’s assertions that my client is a troubled and violent youth is absurd, as is the assertion that my client initiated any contact with him. The truth of the matter, as the video clearly shows, is that Coach Garner decided to subdue and choke a child for almost 50 seconds as a method of exercising discretionary discipline for a minor infraction in the lunchroom. We expect Coach Garner to be held accountable and take responsibility for his lapse in judgment, and for the School District to do the right thing in settling the civil claims that will follow the criminal prosecution.”
Cox Media Group