“I was in fear of a head-butt or something like that or (the student) carrying something,” Garner, who was fired after the incident, told the news station.
Channel 2 reported the incident started with the 17-year-old student “flipping a Styrofoam tray between two tables and getting food all over the place.”
Garner, who is now 61 years old, described the student as a troubled teen with a violent past, the news station reported. The surveillance video shows the teen attempt to leave the cafeteria, and then Garner said the student initiated contact.
“He didn’t say anything until he put his hand on me, and when he did that, I reacted,” Garner said. “He was right up on me, and when he did that ... I just wanted to control his hitting hand. He’s right hand dominant, and that’s all he hits with.”
The student’s attorney sent a statement to the news station that said:
“Coach Garner's assertions that my client is a troubled and violent youth is absurd, as is the assertion that my client initiated any contact with him. The truth of the matter, as the video clearly shows, is that Coach Garner decided to subdue and choke a child for almost 50 seconds as a method of exercising discretionary discipline for a minor infraction in the lunchroom.”
Garner’s attorney told the news station he will head to court Tuesday, when he will attempt to get the charges against his client dismissed because he said the evidence shows his client acted in self-defense.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that Tim Michael Garner was a teacher at Mountain Education Charter High School when this incident occurred. He was a teacher and coach for the Lumpkin County Alternative School, which at the time shared facilities with Mountain Education Charter High School.