A sheriff’s deputy in Georgia was fired Sunday after videos posted to social media showed him repeatedly striking a Black man who was pinned to the ground.
The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office said the deputy, who is white, was fired for excessive use of force in the encounter Friday with Roderick Walker, 26. A criminal investigation into the incident was being turned over to the Clayton County District Attorney’s office, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
A lawyer for Walker, Shean Williams, said Saturday that Walker had been a passenger in a car that was pulled over for having a broken tail light. When a deputy asked for his identification, he refused — “like every American citizen has the right to do,” Williams said.
“Why are you asking for my ID?” Williams quoted Walker saying. “I’m not driving and I haven’t done anything wrong.”
After authorities told Walker to get out of the car, Williams said, the deputies “attacked” him.
At least two separate videos, each from different angles of the arrest, show the confrontation. In one, an officer is heard saying Walker is biting his hand.
In the same video, deputies pin Walker down and appear to have him in a hold around his neck. Walker can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe” while appearing to gasp for air. A woman can be heard screaming, “No! Don’t kill him! He said he can’t breathe!”
After the woman’s plea, the deputies are still on top of the man for several seconds. When the deputies get off him, he is bleeding from his nose and appears to have lost consciousness. Williams said Walker went unconscious twice.
At least one child can he heard screaming in the background.
The deputies are then seen rolling Walker onto his stomach and handcuffing him. The video ends with a third deputy asking the woman to get into a car.
Another video shot from afar shows a boy inside a car parked next to the scene of the arrest, yelling, “Daddy! Daddy!” The same video shows a deputy punching the man while he’s pinned down.
There does not appear to be any video indicating what led up to the incident, and it was unclear how the interaction became violent. Authorities have not said why the car was pulled over.
The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office said in the statement that Walker received medical treatment, including X-rays, and no fractures were found. A photo released by his lawyers showed him with a swollen eye.
Jail records show that Walker was arrested on suspicion of obstructing or hindering an officer and battery — charges Williams said should be dropped. The sheriff’s office said Sunday that Walker would have been released on his own recognizance, but he was being held on an outstanding felony probation warrant for cruelty to children, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and another warrant for failure to appear.
Neither Williams, the sheriff’s office nor the Southern States Police Benevolent Association responded to requests for comment Sunday.
The arrest comes amid months of protests over the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Referencing those cases, Gerald Griggs of the NAACP in Atlanta said Saturday that he and others are demanding that Walker be released from jail but they could be mourning his life.
“We’ve seen this happen on too many occasions and we’re just tired of it,” he said.