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A 29-year-old black man in Georgia was walking to a job interview when local cops tased him three times for jaywalking. He thought the officer’s stun gun was a pistol and worried he was going to die.
It was a day in March when two Gwinnett County police officers approached the man, John Efford, and cited him for jaywalking. Shortly after, he allegedly jaywalked a second time. At that point, one officer raised his or her stun gun to Efford, who pleaded, “I didn’t do anything,” according to body-camera footage obtained by ABC-affiliate WSB-TV. The body camera footage was not released in full by the news station, but it shows Efford being tased repeatedly by one of the officers — including once as he was being handcuffed.
Now, Efford and his attorney say they’re going to sue the department for $5 million over allegations of excessive force. Efford also told WSB-TV that he wants to see the cop who tased him fired.
Charges relating to the arrest were later dropped after prosecutors saw body camera footage. An internal investigation conducted by the Gwinnett County police department determined officers did nothing wrong.
“While incidents involving the uses of force can be unpleasant and uneasy to watch, it does not necessarily mean they are outside of policy, procedures, and law,” a spokesperson for Gwinnett County’s police department said in a statement. “This incident was reviewed by many levels of supervision and was determined to be within reasonable force given the noncompliance of the defendant in this case."
The officers had already given Efford a citation for jaywalking on another nearby road when they stopped him a second time, according to a police report shared with VICE News. Police told Efford to stop and sit on the curb after the second violation. At that point, Efford began “yelling and screaming” about not doing anything wrong and having to get to a job interview, according to the report.
The officers then demanded he “get on the ground,” the body camera footage shows, although Efford was already crouching. After cops pointed the taser at him, Efford crouched to the ground in a “fetal-like position” and began to “yell and scream belligerently,” according to the police report. After that, one of the officers tased him.
Efford writhed in pain and screamed after he was tased and was then tased twice more as he lay in the middle of the road, according to body camera footage. At one point, he was tased in the back when officers already had him on the ground and were handcuffing him.
Officers wrote in the police report that they tased Efford because he was yelling and resisting, and they needed to “gain compliance.” And he was tased to get him to put his hands behind his back.
Officers later arrested him for the jaywalking violation and obstruction, according to the police report.
When Efford asked what he did wrong after he was handcuffed, an officer told him he “jaywalked — again,” according to WSB-TV.
“Right in front of us,” the officer added.
Cover image: Screenshot from police video provided by WSB-TV