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Man claims Merced County sheriff's deputies used excessive force against him

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG
Jerry Gatlin, 41 years-old, face all battered and bruised was irate at officers after arriving home and finding officers in his house. The officers were serving a search warrant in the 500 block of East Juniper in Atwater. Gatlin claims he was chocked during the incident and punched and kicked. Gatlin claims the investigators used excessive force.

April 7, 2010
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG Jerry Gatlin, 41 years-old, face all battered and bruised was irate at officers after arriving home and finding officers in his house. The officers were serving a search warrant in the 500 block of East Juniper in Atwater. Gatlin claims he was chocked during the incident and punched and kicked. Gatlin claims the investigators used excessive force. April 7, 2010 Merced Sun-Star

Three men were arrested on suspicion of illegal gun possession and other charges Tuesday after deputies with the Merced County Sheriff's Department STAR Team and state parole agents served a search warrant at an Atwater residence.

Meanwhile, one of the men who was arrested claims law enforcement officers used excessive force during the incident -- an accusation the sheriff's department emphatically denies.

The incident was reported shortly before 5 p.m. when investigators served the search warrant at a residence in the 500 block of East Juniper Avenue, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.

Deputies and state parole officials were at the address looking for parolee Jesse Gatlin, 48, and weapons that were believed to be inside the house.

After serving the search warrant, investigators found three shotguns, a .22 caliber rifle, ammunition and a hand-held "stun gun." Jesse Gatlin, who was on parole for armed robbery, and another man at the house, 42-year-old convicted sex offender John Godman, were arrested on suspicion of being felons in possession of firearms, ammunition and a stun gun.

While investigators were at the residence, MacKenzie said another man, 41-year-old Jerry Gatlin, arrived at the home and was irate at the officers inside the house.

MacKenzie said investigators tried to take Jerry Gatlin into custody for obstructing the officers, but he resisted arrest and struggled with them. The altercation became physical, MacKenzie said, and Jerry Gatlin was arrested on suspicion of battery on a peace officer and resisting arrest.

Jerry Gatlin, who posted bail Wednesday, spoke with the Sun-Star after his release, claiming the investigators used excessive force. Jerry Gatlin, who is Jesse Gatlin's brother, acknowledged being upset with investigators because they'd "broken" his gun cabinet, but he denied resisting arrest.

He claimed one of the investigators choked him during the incident and said he'd only refused to put his hands behind his back because arthroscopic surgery performed on his shoulder prevents him from doing so. "I was trying to tell him that I cannot put my hands behind my back," Gatlin said.

Jerry Gatlin also claims he was punched and kicked during the incident. "My whole face is messed up," Gatlin said.

His daughter, 20-year-old Christina Perez, said she was present during the incident, claiming her father was never violent toward the investigators. Perez also claims her father was punched, saying his eyes were the "size of two golf balls."

Jerry Gatlin said he was taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center after the incident and treated, before being booked into the Merced County Jail.

MacKenzie denied Gatlin's accusations, saying the suspect wouldn't comply with investigators' orders. MacKenzie also said State Parole Agent Craig Donnahoe suffered a cut to his forehead and Sgt. Paul Roseman sustained injured ribs during the fracas. "Obviously, we have two officers that were injured during the altercation. If he wasn't resisting arrest, that wouldn't have occurred," MacKenzie said. "They had every right to be there. He should have complied with their orders and let them conduct their investigation."

Jerry Gatlin said the guns are registered in his name, and he had the stun gun because he used to be employed as a security guard. MacKenzie said parolees are prohibited under the law from having access to firearms.

Jerry Gatlin said he plans to file a complaint against the department.

Godman and Jesse Gatlin were booked into the Merced County Jail. Godman is being held in lieu of $62,000 bail, while Jesse Gatlin is being held without bail.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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