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Officer demoted, another resigns over fight

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

CONYERS — The three Conyers Police officers involved in last month's bar fight incident apparently did not actually hit anyone, but behaved in a way that Police Chief Gene Wilson called "an embarrassment" and had an adverse impact on the department's reputation.

The officers, Lt. Derek Parker, assigned to internal affairs; Detective Shyra Hardwick; and Officer Jason Heyman, were identified in police reports as being involved in the fight Jan. 15 at The Pointe bar, located on Railroad Street in Conyers.

Conyers Police released the 43-page internal review Feb. 3. The review included detailed interviews, witness statements and video transcripts from the incident.

Wilson sent memos to Parker and Hardwick about the disciplinary action taken. Parker was given a written reprimand, according to his memo dated Jan. 20, and reassigned from internal affairs to the uniform division. In her Feb. 2 memo, Hardwick was demoted from detective to police officer, transferred to the patrol division and suspended 10 days without pay.

Heyman resigned from his position in a letter dated Jan. 21 and no internal action was taken against him.

The incident happened when the off-duty officers were celebrating the retirement of a former Rockdale County Sheriff's Office deputy. RCSO employees and a Johns Creek police officer were also part of the celebration party.

The internal review described a physical altercation that erupted after the retiring deputy attempted to bring his underage son into the bar. The former deputy and others argued with the bar's management and a nearby bar customer intervened in the argument on the manager's side.

A witness said the deputy and the 19-year-old left and a little while later the rest of the group was in the process of paying its tab to also leave the bar. Then an unknown person threw a punch over someone's shoulder and the bar customer threw a punch and struck Hardwick in the face. Witnesses said the punch by the bar customer was a mistake as the man was drunk and just started swinging wildly in self-defense.

In conclusion, the review said there were "a number of conflicting accounts," and it listed three main inconsistencies, all surrounding the time when Hardwick was hit. It was unclear who the bar customer intended to hit and who actually first hit the bar customer.

Hardwick was described as being "disrespectful" and "uncooperative" with the on-duty officers who responded to the bar. Transcripts of the video showed heavy profanity and offensive language from Hardwick toward civilians and responding officers.

Wilson called her behavior "an embarrassment" and "inexcusable."

Parker said in interviews that he was in the back corner and did not see any of the conflict leading up to or during the punch to Hardwick.

The chief reprimanded Parker for not bringing information forward that was needed in the investigation.

The review cited code sections of the Police Department's standard operating procedure that outlined how officers are not to conduct themselves and action to be taken if they behave in a prohibited manner.

Hardwick's policy violations included unbecoming conduct, insubordination, and conduct toward superior and subordinate officers and associates.

Parker's policy violation was unsatisfactory performance.

The department's Office of Professional Standards conducted the investigation.