MOULTON — A Moulton police officer charged Thursday with torture and willful abuse of a child had resigned from the Decatur police force in 2010 after his estranged wife accused him of assaulting her and threatening her with a gun.
Mitchell Harris Breland, 27, was arrested Thursday by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and released from Lawrence County Jail on $5,000 bail.
“We plan to plead not guilty at the appropriate time,” said Breland’s attorney, Brian White of Decatur.
Breland, of 3050 Byler Road, Moulton, is charged with two counts of torture, willful abuse of a child, authorities said. The charge is a Class C felony punishable by 1-10 years in prison if convicted.
Breland, who has been with the Moulton Police Department for more than a year, has been on administrative leave with pay since Aug. 29.
Moulton Police Chief Lyndon McWhorter said he placed Breland on leave after the Morgan County Department of Human Resources reported allegations involving an 8-year-old girl and that an investigation had been launched.
“I directed DHR to the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, which I contacted to handle the criminal investigation as a neutral party,” McWhorter said.
ABI Capt. Larry Flippo said after the investigation, “we talked with the Lawrence County district attorney, and the decision was made to arrest Breland.”
Agents contacted Breland and his attorney Wednesday to make arrangements for Breland to turn himself in Thursday, “which he did at the Lawrence County Jail, where he was formally charged and then released on bail,” Flippo said.
Authorities said Breland is accused of repeatedly whipping the girl. It was unknown if she was whipped with a belt or another item.
Reports indicate the child was beaten so severely she had to be taken to the hospital. Medical personnel there contacted DHR.
McWhorter said there had been no complaints about Breland’s work as an officer.
“These are very serious allegations, and this is very disheartening for the department,” McWhorter said. “When you go into law enforcement you are charged to uphold the law. Not only are these allegations disheartening to me and our department, but law enforcement in general.”
“I’m not sure what it was,” he said. “I just know he left (Decatur police) and applied with us with no pending charges against him and no convictions.”
McWhorter said he has received no complaints about Breland.
“He hasn’t had any write-ups or anything like that since he has been employed here,” he said.
According to a petition for protection from abuse filed in Morgan County Circuit Court on Aug. 16, Breland’s ex-wife, Jaime DeMoss Cousin, said that on or about Aug. 9, Breland “beat our twin girls leaving substantial bruising. I had to take the children to the hospital and DHR. ...
“This is not the first time the girls have come home with bruises. This problem is escalating. He is failing to follow the safety plan that DHR put in place.”
The court date for the petition is Oct. 24.
He said he hired Breland after a background check revealed no current charges.
McWhorter said he was aware of allegations against Breland when he hired him, but that the charges were dropped.
In the 2010 incident, Breland had been a Decatur police officer for 2½ years when police received a 911 call to the 2000 block of Rutledge Street Southwest about a domestic violence situation. The female victim told police Breland assaulted her and pointed a rifle at her Bedford Drive home.
Police said the woman suffered minor injuries to her chin and neck.
Tom Smith contributed to this report.
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