published Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Bad words landed him in jail, but that's the least of his problems (with audio)

Hear the 911 call

Warning: The recording contains profanity.

Audio clip

911 call that landed Boyd Green in jail

ROCKY FACE, Ga. — As last Sunday night turned into Monday morning, Boyd Randall Green started drinking vodka. Then, he called the cops.

Green, a 58-year-old Marine veteran diagnosed with depression, was on edge. But his voice remained level, like he was ordering takeout. He told a 911 dispatcher that he needed to see Dalton police officer Diner Mondragon.

"But I reckon he's too damn scared to come out here," Green said.

"He's actually not working tonight," the dispatcher responded. "What's the problem?"

"The problem is he let my momma lay up here and die. That's the problem."

The dispatcher asked Green what his name was.

"I just told you," he said. "Boyd Green. He knows me."

"You didn't tell me," the dispatcher responded.

"The sorry damn [expletive] knows me."

"OK. All right. I'll have somebody give you a call."

"He's going to pay for all this," Green said. "I'm telling you: He's going to pay, one way or the other. Y'all think y'all are just going to come over here and throw all this stuff under the rug."

From her computer, the dispatcher noted in her report that Green was "extremely 10-96." That's police talk for "mentally unstable."

Thirty minutes later four Whitfield County Sheriff's Office deputies arrived at Green's house. Green looked like he hadn't bathed in days, and his speech was slurred, they later noted in their report.

"You are coming with us," he said they told him.

•••

What he said Monday morning to the dispatcher, what police arrested him for, weren't the ramblings of a drunk. He had been waiting to say those words for more than a year, ever since he lost Ada.

Last summer, Green rammed his Buick Century into the back of another car near the intersection of Shugart and Chattanooga roads. When two police officers, including Diner Mondragon, arrived at the scene they thought Green looked intoxicated and arrested him.

He said he told Mondragon about his 83-year-old mother. He was her caregiver and a stroke had left her barely able to move. She needed help with her medications, food and diapers. She relied on him.

Dalton police incident reports don't note any mention of Green's mother and the department says they have no recording of the arrest, but Green said he begged the officer to check on her.

For six days, he stayed behind bars. And for six days, he says, he asked officers to check on his mother. He also tried to call his childhood friend, Dennis Southern, but Southern was out of town when Green got arrested.

  • photo
    Boyd Green, 58, sits on the front steps at his home in Rocky Face, Ga. Green, a disabled U.S. Marine, recently was arrested for cursing to a 911 operator.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

Southern didn't know Green was trying to reach him, but four days after his friend went to jail he decided to drop by the house on Woods Drive to check on Boyd and Ada. When he arrived, the front door was unlocked.

So he walked inside.

In the living room, he could see Ada Green's leg, stiff and cold, surrounded by dried blood and insects.

When the coroner arrived, he labeled the death "natural causes."

A year later, four splotches of her blood remain on the floor. Those stains make Boyd Green angry.

"She was probably calling my name," he said. "That's what's eatin' at me. ... I told my mother I would be with her. But I wasn't."

•••

Six days ago, five hours after his arrest, Green left the Whitfield County Jail on a $500 bond. He returned home and resumed his daily routine. He sat in the living room, listened to country music and stared at those stains.

From the outside, Green looks like a man who prefers isolation. Only one other home sits on his stretch of the street, and you can't see it from Green's front door. "Private Property" signs hang on the porch.

But inside the house is a sad man who doesn't know what to do with the rest of his life. He has considered suicide several times. He lives alone except for his cat, Lucky, which he suspects will die soon. He sleeps on an uncovered mattress in the living room and refuses to go in the bedroom, where his mother slept.

He keeps a picture of Ada in a chair in the corner of the living room. It's where she always sat. It's also right next to where she died. As he stared at that chair last week, Green said that his mother wasn't the first person to die in the house.

His 46-year-old brother, Phillip, was found dead on the bedroom floor one morning seven years ago.

And so when Green thinks about his arrest Monday, he doesn't consider it his worst problem. He also doesn't think he committed a crime.

"I ain't never hurt nobody," he said. "I don't know why they're after me so bad."

Before Green's arrest Monday, according to sheriff's office records dating back to 2009, the department had never charged anybody with using vulgar language on a 911 call. The crime, which was created by the Georgia Legislature in 2007, is a misdemeanor. If convicted, Green could be punished with a year in jail, a $500 fine, or both.

Some legal experts say Green should never have been arrested, that the law itself is unconstitutional. And even if the law is sound, even if it isn't a violation of his freedom of speech, some mental health advocates argue that jail isn't the right place for Green.

In several cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the police cannot arrest someone for being disrespectful toward them. A citizen can curse at a cop, so long as that cursing is not likely to incite violence among other citizens. That couldn't happen when you are talking to a 911 dispatcher, one on one.

"You can't smack somebody over the face on a phone line," said Gerry Weber, an Atlanta attorney who is representing a Cobb County woman suing local police officers who arrested her two years ago.

After Green's arrest Monday, his brother, Raymond Green, criticized the deputies' decision to bring him to jail instead of to a hospital. Southern, the friend who found Ada Green's body last year, agreed. He needs a doctor, not a warden.

"He stays in that house," Southern said. "Then he gets to drinking. Then he gets to crying. He's a train wreck. He needs some help. He really needs something. I done watched him since his momma passed away, and he keeps accusing himself for it."

On Friday, Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood said he couldn't explain the arrest. He said members of his department are trained to recognize suspects with mental illnesses, and they often take them to local clinics and hospitals instead of jail. He doesn't know why that didn't happen in this case.

Members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness are scheduled to provide more training to the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office in December. Pat Strode, the police crisis intervention team coordinator in NAMI's Georgia office, said Green should not be in jail.

"It's not therapeutic," she said. "When you're suffering, you're sick. You need treatment. We wouldn't readily throw someone in jail suffering from a heart attack."

But Green suspects he'll be there again. He doesn't want to go, he says. But he's ready for it.

"They're going to take me to court and lock me up for a while," he said. "I don't care, really. I'm tired."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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