A white Georgia sheriff’s deputy who repeatedly punched a Black man while he was pinned to the ground by another cop during a traffic stop has been fired, officials said.
The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office said in an advisory Sunday that it had terminated the deputy over “excessive use of force,” which was caught on widely circulated bystander videos. The sheriff’s office said the officer, who has not been named, “repeatedly struck” 26-year-old Roderick Walker Friday as his girlfriend and child screamed in horror. The deputy had already been on administrative leave without pay due to an investigation into the incident, according to ABC News.
Walker, his girlfriend, his stepson, and his 5-month-old were passengers in a car Friday night when it got pulled over by an unmarked police car for a broken taillight, according to the Associated Press. Walker had just dropped off a rental car and paid someone to drive them home, Shean Williams, an attorney at The Cochran Firm in Atlanta who is now representing the family, said during a news conference Saturday.
Although Walker was just a passenger, deputies asked to see his identification, which he stated he did not have.
“They became upset when he inquired, like every American citizen has the right to inquire, ‘Why are you asking me for my ID? I’m not driving, and I have not done anything wrong,’” Williams said.
Deputies then asked Walker to get out of the vehicle and began to forcefully arrest him, Williams said. Bystander video shows that two deputies pinned him down, though one punched him in the head multiple times. One deputy can be heard exclaiming that Walker bit his hand. A child can be heard screaming “Daddy!” And Walker’s girlfriend can be heard shouting “No!” according to the video.
“Get off of him!” his girlfriend screamed as deputies put their full weight on Walker. “Get the fuck off of him!”
“Don’t kill him,” she pleaded. “He said he can’t breathe, he said he can’t breathe, officer. Officer, he said he can’t breathe.”
When officers stood up, revealing that Walker had lost consciousness and was bleeding, she and the child screamed as deputies flipped him over and placed his limp body in handcuffs. A deputy told them to back up.
Williams denied that Walker bit a deputy’s hand, according to the Washington Post. Walker received medical treatment and X-rays of his head after his arrest, showing no fractures. He’s still being monitored by a doctor at the jail hospital, though, the sheriff’s office said in a statement Sunday.
The videos only depict the arrest itself, not what led up to it. But over the past few years, several notable instances of police brutality against Black people have been triggered by broken taillights or otherwise routine traffic stops. A white Georgia state trooper was fired and charged with felony murder just last month after a chase over a busted taillight ended with him forcing the driver, a Black man, into a ditch, where the trooper allegedly fatally shot him.
Walker, the young father, was ultimately charged with battery and felony obstruction over the incident, his criminal attorney, Torris Butterfield, said Saturday. He remains in jail, however, due to a “felony probation warrant out of Fulton County for Cruelty to Children, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, and a Failure to Appear warrant out of Hapeville which resulted in Magistrate Court denying him a bond,” according to the Sunday advisory from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office.
A spokesperson for the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office said the agency is unable to comment further because the incident is still under investigation.
Williams called the charges “frivolous” in Saturday’s press conference, and added in a statement received by ABC News that Walker was not arrested for the prior warrants but because of the traffic stop. He also alleged during a rally Sunday that deputies falsified a warrant for his arrest.
“Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill's statement is just a weak attempt to deflect from his lack of leadership and continuous encouragement that his deputies violate peoples' civil rights,” Williams said, according to ABC News. “The only individuals who perpetrated criminal behavior were the deputies who unlawfully assaulted and arrested him.”