Lincoln Co. sheriff’s sergeant has charges dropped; former deputy pleads guilty

Charges were filed after WBTV investigation exposed force used during arrest.
Charges were filed after WBTV investigation exposed force used during arrest.
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 1:01 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2023 at 1:53 PM EDT
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LINCOLNTON, N.C. (WBTV) – Assault charges against a sergeant with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office have been dismissed.

Court records show the charges were dismissed last month after the case was taken to the grand jury, which declined to bring an indictment.

Sgt. Alden “Joe” Sutton was charged with one count of simple assault in February for his actions during an arrest in May 2022. It is not clear why Sutton’s misdemeanor charge was taken to the grand jury, a group that typically is only asked to weigh in on felony charges.

Ted Bell, the district attorney for Rutherford and McDowell counties who was appointed to prosecute the case, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from WBTV.

A second person, former deputy Tyler Thompson, was also charged in connection with the incident. Thompson pleaded guilty in April to one count of simple assault, court records show.

Court records show Thompson was sentenced to 20 hours of community service and ordered to surrender his law enforcement license.

Previous: He reported his supervisor choking a handcuffed man. Then he was fired.

Body camera video of the May 2022 arrest shows Sutton putting his hand around a suspect’s throat while the suspect’s hands were cuffed behind his back.

WBTV first exposed the violent arrest in August of last year. In the initial story, Thompson detailed his efforts to blow the whistle internally and with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation on Sutton’s actions during the arrest.

In his report to the SBI, records show, Thompson said Sutton made him change wording in his report to more favorably reflect Sutton’s actions.

Thompson was fired days after Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam was notified that Thompson had called the SBI to report his concerns about Sutton’s actions.

Previous: Video of violent Lincoln Co. arrest released over objection from sheriff, DA

“It was a situation where I felt like if I didn’t do something, he would get away with it and the only time bad people get away with bad things is when good people decide to stand by and do nothing,” Thompson said at the time.

“If this is the last thing I ever do in law enforcement, I’m OK with that.”

Sutton was given a three-day suspension for his actions during the arrest and remains employed with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.