BY: BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(ATLANTA) — Nearly a week after being pinned to the ground by two white members of a Georgia sheriff’s department and beaten by one of them, a 26-year-old Black man remained in jail on Wednesday while his lawyers say the fired deputy who allegedly assaulted him is the one who should be locked up.
Roderick Walker is being held at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta on outstanding warrants following his arrest on Friday by two Clayton County Sheriff’s deputies, including one who was immediately terminated for excessive use of force after witness cellphone video of the brutal beating was posted on social media and went viral.
The video shows Walker being held on the ground as one of the deputies repeatedly punched him in the face and body. Walker, who was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for allegedly having a broken tail light, was ordered out of the vehicle and arrested when he questioned why the deputies asked for his identification, his lawyers said.
“The reason he is in jail is because of the stop in Clayton County that led to him being brutally assaulted by the officer,” Walker’s attorney, Torris Butterfield, told ABC News on Wednesday. “Although there may have been a warrant outstanding for him, he wasn’t arrested for any kind of warrant.”
Butterfield said he has filed an emergency motion, asking Judge Jane Barwick of the Fulton County Superior Court for a bond hearing, saying he believes Walker suffered a mild traumatic brain injury when he was knocked unconscious during the arrest and needs medical attention that jail officials cannot provide.
Walker is currently not scheduled to appear in court until Sept. 29.
“We have medical experts waiting to see him as soon as we can get him out,” Butterfield said.
Shean Williams, another attorney representing Walker, said he is calling for the now-fired deputy to be identified and charged with criminal assault.
Walker was initially booked at the Clayton County Jail on suspicion of two felony counts of obstructing officers and two counts of misdemeanor battery.
Butterfield told ABC News that the sheriff’s department has not made public a report of the arrest and that officials have yet to grant his request to see the warrants against Walker.
“We want the facts,” Butterfield said. “There’s no good reason why we don’t have this officer’s name yet if he’s been terminated and he’s a public employee. There’s a lack of transparency.”
After viewing the video of Walker’s arrest, Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill said he immediately called in his agency’s entire internal affairs unit to investigate. On Sunday, Hill released a statement announcing that the deputy seen in the video repeatedly hitting Waker was terminated for excessive use of force and that a criminal investigation of the incident was turned over to the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office.
Hill said he got a $25,000 signature bond expedited for Walker, but added that Walker remains in jail because there was a felony probation warrant for him out of Fulton County for cruelty to children and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. There was also a warrant on Walker from Hapeville, Georgia, for failing to appear at a court hearing on an undisclosed charge, officials said.
“Mr. Walker’s legal counsel will have to resolve these issues to secure his release,” Hill said in his statement.
The sheriff said Walker received medical treatment, including X-rays that detected no fractures to his head, before he was transferred to the Fulton County Jail.
Williams, of The Cochran Firm in Atlanta, called the outstanding warrants found against Walker a “weak attempt to deflect from his (Hill’s) lack of leadership” and an endeavor to distract attention away from the beating Walker endured.
“Mr. Walker would not be in jail if it were not for this unlawful arrest that violated his legal and constitutional rights,” Williams said during a news conference with Walker’s mother outside the Clayton County Jail on Saturday.
Butterfield said he and Williams have asked Clayton County District Attorney Tasha Mosley to drop the “frivolous” charges against Walker and seek an indictment against the deputy who beat the father of four.
During a news conference on Tuesday, Mosley read from a prepared statement, saying, “My office is collecting any and all pertinent information” about what transpired during Walker’s arrest.
She declined to comment on details of the ongoing investigation, citing Georgia rules of professional conduct for prosecutors.
“As with any investigation, we encourage anyone who witnessed anything to contact my office,” Mosley said. “We will not rush to judgment. Rather, we will be fair and thorough. That is what I have been entrusted to do for the citizens of Clayton County.”
The incident unfolded about 7 p.m. on Friday in front of a Georgia Department of Public Health building near the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Williams said Walker, his girlfriend, Janita Davis, her 5-year-old son and their 4-month-old child were getting a ride to a hotel they were staying after dropping off a rental car.
The driver was pulled over by Clayton County Sheriff’s deputies in an unmarked car for having a busted tail light, Williams said. During the stop, a sheriff’s deputy asked Walker, who was a passenger in the vehicle, for his identification, according to Williams.
Walker informed the deputies that he did not have ID on him and that he didn’t need any since he was not driving, Williams said. He said the deputies allegedly didn’t like Walker’s reply and ordered him out of the vehicle.
Williams said Walker complied with the deputies’ orders, but the incident quickly escalated.
Cellphone videos of the incident taken by a witness and by Davis show two Clayton County Sheriff’s deputies on top of Walker trying to handcuff him. One of the officers is seen punching Walker in the face and body and yelling, “He bit me.”
Walker can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe” and Davis screaming at the officers, “Don’t kill him.”
Walker’s face appeared to be bloody and his body seemed to go listless as the deputies, with the help of a third colleague, handcuffed him. Walker was conscious as the deputies stood him up and placed him in a patrol car.
Williams said the ride-share driver of the vehicle Walker was riding in was not charged in the incident.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.