Madison County – Recently, Madison County Commissioners’ passed a resolution backing law enforcement. The Rural Organizing and Resilience (ROAR), who is critical of Madison County Sheriff’s Department’s hiring of a former Asheville Police officer, issued a statement about the resolution.
David Embree with ROAR sent the following statement: “It is disappointing to hear that when Madison County residents make the simple request that our sheriff’s department not hire an officer who was fired from the Asheville Police Department (APD) for an act of police brutality, that some in our community have chosen to sow division and politicize the issue in order to gain a few points for their political agenda.”
ROAR’s statement failed to mention that the officer was cleared of the charges leveled against him, and some believe it was only political pressure that resulted in his termination from the APD.
ROAR’s statement goes on to declare, “Saying that we don’t want our tax dollars going towards a public official who has shown himself readily willing to violently abuse his power is basic common sense that most in our community can easily get behind. Why some would choose to actively advocate for bad policing and turn this into a ‘left’ vs ‘right’ issue is beyond us. Regardless of your political persuasion, we should all be able to agree that we want to be treated with dignity and respect by the people our county employs.”
ROAR’s statement also did not mention that the resolution they oppose was passed unanimously by both Republican and Democrat members of the commissioners.
“Saying that we want those who work in our county to treat people right is not a partisan stance, it is a basic expectation that everyone holds regardless of political belief.” The statement went on to tell, “It’s time for us to put aside the conservative vs liberal posturing that the pundits and politicians try to divide us by and come together around the core values of dignity, respect, and freedom that we all cherish and expect here in Madison County.”
The officer at the center of controversy
The officer in question is Anthony Sorangleo. While with the APD, Sorangleo was accused of striking an intoxicated man in February 2020 during an arrest on Hendersonville Road in Asheville. He was charged in June of the same year.
Judge Calvin Hill dropped the misdemeanor simple assault case in February 2021 after the Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams’ office presented its evidence.
In a statement to WLOS-13, defendant attorney J. Thomas Amburgey said, “The State Bureau of Investigations conducted a thorough review of the incident. The SBI found zero evidence that my client had done anything other than defend himself.”
“The truth is this: My client was arresting an individual. While being taken into custody, that arrestee repeatedly kicked my client in the groin. To stop the assault, my client struck the arrestee once,” Amburgey said. “The facts were never in question, and the law was always on Anthony Sorangleo’s side.”
Follow-up questions for ROAR
The Tribune asked several follow-up questions of Embree. The Tribune asked, “Does it not matter that a court of law and two review boards found the officer in question, Sorangleo, not guilty of wrongdoing? How should the officer have handled the situation? What would you like to see happen to the officer?”
Embree responded, “The video clearly shows the officer punching the handcuffed man in an act of retaliation. It was not an act of self-defense, it was an act of revenge. Police are supposed to enforce the law, not enact punishment. Punishment is for a judge to decide, as our legal system clearly lays out. The man was already handcuffed, all the officer had to do was back off for a second and he could have easily gotten control of the situation, especially considering their were other officers on the scene. Instead, he lost his temper and retaliated with uncalled-for violence. Review boards and courts rarely ever hold police accountable for their abuses of power, as we have seen over and over again. That this officer did not face legal consequences is in keeping with this trend and comes as no surprise.”
Embree continued, “Proponents of bad policing keep pointing to the fact that his charges were dropped but conveniently leave out that he was fired from the Asheville Police Department for his abusive behavior. The APD determined that this officer’s violent actions made him unfit to ‘serve and protect’ in their city, so why would we want him working here? That would seem to be damning enough evidence right there. When we hire people who have the legal right to use lethal force in our community, we need to hold them to the highest standard, not the lowest. That means having people who can keep their cool and stay professional in tense situations, not lash out when things get a little heated.”
More than 130 people attended the June Madison County Commissioners meeting to back local law enforcement and Madison County Sheriff Harwood’s hiring of Sorangleo.