ZEBULON — Police are investigating their treatment of Richard Poole after he told Zebulon commissioners that police officers injured his back when arresting him for ethnic intimidation.
“I have to wear a back brace. ... I’m 70 years old. This is how the police department of this town treats senior citizens,” Poole told Zebulon commissioners at their June 3 meeting. “Something is wrong with your police department.”
Zebulon police officer Craig Ziencik arrested Poole on May 18 after Poole allegedly used racial slurs to verbally abuse a man who was working on a house in Poole’s neighborhood. When the man, Bobby Jones, attempted to flee the confrontation, police say Poole, who is white, followed Jones, who is black, in his pickup and threatened him with a billy club.
The arrest review will be monitored by Town Manager Rick Hardin and completed by the end of next week, police Chief Tim Hayworth said.
“We take any complaints from citizens seriously,” Hardin said.
Poole isn’t the first to complain about Zebulon police officers using excessive force during detainment. Alice Holder sued Zebulon police last year for allegedly injuring her back in 2009. In her complaint to the town, Holder said Officer Brandon Lane “jabbed” the handcuffs into her back “so strong I literally wet (my) clothes.”
Zebulon police found no wrongdoing in their treatment of Holder, and her lawsuit was later dropped. Holder had been detained and questioned about her role in a confrontation at a local gas station, but was never charged.
Poole, meanwhile, is scheduled to face the ethnic intimidation charge at the Wake County Courthouse on June 6. But he did not address the charge at the Zebulon Board of Commissioners meeting. Instead, Poole used his 3-minute public comment period to question the police department’s professionalism and criticize Hayworth by name as Hayworth sat in the audience.
“Every time I call 9-1-1, they don’t do nothing,” Poole said. “I’ve gone to the chief. He hangs up on me.”
Hayworth disputes Poole’s claims. The chief says Poole frequently calls Zebulon police to report criminal activity in his neighborhood, but is often unsatisfied with the results their investigations.
“On many occasions ... we find out no criminal offense has occurred,” Hayworth said. “When he’s informed of that, Mr. Poole is often unhappy with that response.”
Neither commissioners, nor town staff responded to Poole’s comments during the meeting. Poole left Town Hall shortly after making his remarks. Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny later said he found Poole’s allegations to be “ill-founded.”
“I think he just had something on his chest and came to get it off," Matheny said. "And I think he’s wrong."