A sheriff’s deputy in Georgia has been fired after being captured on video repeatedly punching a Black man during a traffic stop.
ATLANTA — An attorney for Roderick Walker, a 26-year-old Black man who was repeatedly punched by a Georgia sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop just south of Atlanta, is demanding that authorities file criminal charges against the officers involved and conduct an independent investigation.
The Friday incident in Clayton County, Georgia, went viral after it was recorded on camera by Walker’s girlfriend, Juanita Davis.
Shean Williams, the family’s attorney, said deputies committed a “blatant assault” on Walker, who suffered bruises all over his face and body and a swollen left eye.
Video of the incident shows two white sheriff’s deputies pinning Walker to the ground and one punching him in the head at least three times. Williams likened the use of force to the death of George Floyd in May after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The killing has inspired anti-racism protests across the nation in support of law enforcement reform and support for Black Americans.
“They almost killed him,” Williams said in an interview Monday with USA TODAY. “They committed an aggravated assault on this man and luckily I’m not talking to you about Mr. Walker’s death.”
The deputy who punched Walker has been fired for excessive use of force, the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday.
Williams said the second deputy should also be terminated and both should face assault and battery charges. He wants the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate the officers’ conduct.
The sheriff’s office said it turned over the criminal investigation to Clayton County District Attorney Tasha Mosley. Mosley said in a statement that she had requested all materials related to the probe and would open the investigation upon receiving them. She noted that grand juries in Georgia remain suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If the final outcome of the investigation leads us to bring charges we are unsure at this time when it will come before a Grand Jury,” Mosley said.
According to Williams, Walker, Davis, their 5-month-old son, and Davis’ 5-year-old son from a previous relationship, had dropped off a rental car and paid a man $10 to drive them home. Police stopped the vehicle they were in for a broken tail light.
Williams said the deputies asked Walker, who was in the passenger seat, for his ID and Walker stated he did not have one and questioned why the police needed it. The deputies then demanded Walker get out of the vehicle and threw him to the ground as they struggled to handcuff him, Williams said.
Davis is heard hysterically screaming in the video.
“Get off of him,” she said. “Don’t kill him. He said he can’t breathe, officer.”
Her 5-year-old son is also heard yelling “daddy” in the background.
Davis said witnessing the incident had traumatized her and her 5-year-old son.
“I was very scared and afraid for his life, honestly,” Davis said. “I was in shock for like three minutes before I actually pulled out my phone to start recording.”
She described Walker, a father of five, as a loving, caring person who was focused on raising his children.
Walker is being held in the Clayton County Jail on a felony probation warrant out of Fulton County for cruelty to children and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and a failure to appear for a warrant out of Hapeville, Georgia, the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. The court denied Walker bond and he is being monitored by a jail doctor.
“Mr. Walker’s legal counsel will have to resolve these issues to secure his release,” the sheriff’s office said.
Williams said Walker was illegally arrested and police are using his warrants to “deflect from their horrendous acts.”
“Roderick Walker is in jail solely because he was illegally arrested after being assaulted by Clayton County Sheriff deputies, not because of anything he did during that incident or in the past,” Williams said. “Mr. Walker would not be in jail if it were not for this unlawful arrest that violated his legal and constitutional rights.”
Williams said the U.S. has an unequal justice system for Black people.
“The incident is just another example of the contrast that we see in this country when law enforcement deals with Black America,” Williams said. “As a Black man, it’s disappointing that we are treated differently because of the color of our skin.”
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