Witnesses say officers assaulted couple in handcuffs

Charges dismissed against couple who say officers assaulted them

HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — Two Henry County police officers are under investigation after two people say they got cuts and bruises when the officers arrested them.

The incident happened outside Slowpoke’s Mexican Restaurant in McDonough, where the officers involved said they were trying to break up a fight.

Cory Hickman told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that he was working at Slowpoke’s on May 5 when he became so alarmed about what two plainclothes officers were doing to fellow employee Darlene Rebecca Santoyo and her fiance, Phillip Hemphill, that he began shooting cellphone video.

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“We have two videos, but there was a third one,” Hickman told Winne.

Hickman said one of the two Flint Circuit Drug Task Force agents pulled him out of the restaurant and had another officer put him in cuffs. He says the agent then told him he had a choice: Delete the video or go to jail for felony obstruction.

He says he deleted it.

“He told me, ‘Do you want to go home tonight or would you like to go to jail?’ And, of course, I said, 'I want to go home,' and he told me to delete the videos,” Hickman told Winne.

“Georgia law makes it a felony to destroy evidence,” said Hemphill’s attorney, Lee Sexton.

Accounts of what happened in the parking lot given to Channel 2 Action News by Hemphill and Santoyo sharply differ from a police report.

But in a hearing Thursday, a bombshell was dropped when Sexton called a witness.

Hickman said he is a shift leader at Slowpoke's and he saw the agents pull in to the parking lot. He said Hemphill and Santoyo never even had time to resist.

“Had you seen Phillip in any way abuse the officer or fight with the officer?” Sexton asked Hickman during the hearing.

“No, sir. He was trying to get in the car to leave,” Hickman testified.

Chief Magistrate Judge Robert Godwin dismissed the case.

Santoyo said she is innocent of the pending felony obstruction and disorderly conduct, the same charges Hemphill had faced until Godwin dismissed them.

A police report suggests Hemphill pushed an agent and continued to struggle and Santoyo struck an agent in the chest, began kicking him and hit him in the head with her elbow.

They say that’s not true.