By Eric Perry
HENRY COUNTY, Ga. – During a news conference on Wednesday, Officer Christina Gatchel from the Henry County Police Department stepped forward to share her traumatic experience, alleging sexual battery and harassment by her former boss, Capt. Woody Fowler. This marks the first time Gatchel has spoken publicly about the allegations since filing a lawsuit and complaint last August.
Former Capt. Fowler is accused of inappropriate touching and sexual comments towards Officer Gatchel and at least eight other women within the department.
She told the press she felt humiliated every day but his unwanted sexual advances. She said she also had photo evidence of the since-retired police captain touching her backside at his 2021 retirement event.
“Everyone who protects and serves, man or woman, deserves to be protected and served on equal footing,” she said during the press conference.
Gatchel says her motivation for coming forward is to prevent such incidents from happening to anyone else within the department.
“I’m fighting to hold the police captain who sexually battered me both criminally and civilly responsible, because I want to bring blasting change to Henry County,” she said.
Gatchel and her attorney, Constance Cooper, filed the complaint against Capt. Fowler, Henry County Police Chief Mark Amerman and former Henry County Human Resources Dir. Harold Cooper in August last year.
“The internal investigation was done by the department itself,” Attorney Cooper said. “We do have concerns about the lack of objectivity there.”
Up to nine women made claims against Fowler who led the criminal investigations division up until his retirement.
“An additional victim reported Capt. Fowler forced her into a hug and said he wanted to feel her breast on his chest,” Attorney Cooper continued. “Reported Capt. Fowler approached her after she had been talking to an African American officer and said he didn’t like her talking to black men.”
FOX 5 Atlanta received a 165-page complaint that claimed Amerman and Cooper failed to step in.
Fowler was allowed to enter what is known as an “Alford plea” to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery and simple terms, effectively allowing him to avoid liability in the lawsuit and any potential future lawsuits.
Officer Gatchel and her attorney said they wanted a jury trial. Right now, a federal magistrate judge has rebuked Henry County’s efforts to have the case dismissed, clearing the way for depositions in the case, and a discovery phase.
FOX 5 reached out to the Henry County Police Department twice as well as other officials in the county. As of Wednesday evening, we have yet to hear back.