A sergeant with the Atlanta Police Department has been fired following an investigation into a widely shared cellphone video that showed him kicking a woman in the face as she lay handcuffed on the ground.
Sgt. Marc Theodule was terminated Monday after APD’s Office of Professional Standards concluded its investigation, according to a news release from the department. A second officer seen in the video, Bridget Citizen, was returned to full duty after the same investigation found that she had not violated the agency’s duty-to-intervene policy.
Credit: Atlanta Police Department
Credit: Atlanta Police Department
APD Chief Rodney Bryant and other senior officials learned about the video July 26, the same day the incident occurred. Originally posted to Instagram, the video shows a woman prone on the ground with Theodule and Citizen standing over her. The woman, identified in a police report as Ashley Samuel, keeps her head lifted and appears to speak to the officers when Theodule can be seen kicking her in the face.
Her attorney identified the woman as Ashley Cooley.
According to a police report filed by Citizen, the female officer was the first to respond to an apartment complex on Hank Aaron Drive in the Peoplestown neighborhood after a woman said her neighbor was acting aggressively and showing off a gun. Both Cooley and the 911 caller tried to flag her down in the parking lot.
Once Citizen made contact with Cooley, she became concerned for her mental health and told her she would request an ambulance transport to Grady Memorial Hospital for evaluation, the officer said in her report.
Citizen also confiscated a gun from Cooley when she could not provide proof of ownership, which she said angered the woman. After speaking on the phone with Cooley’s brother, who said the gun was his, the officer locked the weapon in her squad car. This further upset Cooley, Citizen said in the report.
Theodule responded to the scene after Cooley requested to speak with Citizen’s supervisor, according to the report. Citizen said Cooley continued to yell at her neighbor, despite the officers repeatedly asking her to calm down. They ultimately detained her when she began walking toward her neighbor.
Once Cooley was handcuffed on the ground, she began spitting on Theodule’s pants and boots multiple times, the report said. The officers said they asked Samuel not to spit at them several times and, at one point, Theodule wiped spit from his boot on Samuel’s clothing. When Samuel continued to spit, Citizen said, Theodule kicked her in the face.
In the initial response to the video, officials also noted Citizen’s inaction following Theodule’s kick. Both officers were immediately relieved from duty and Theodule was suspended without pay.
No charges were filed against Cooley, and police did not say if she was injured by the kick. Her attorney, Gerald Griggs, said she is still recuperating and is surrounded by family.
“We are hopeful that this is a step in the right direction for full justice and accountability in the police brutality case for Ms. Cooley,” Griggs said in a statement. “We continue to demand the immediate charging of Sgt. Theodule for his assault against Ms. Cooley by Fulton County prosecutors.”
Prior to his termination, Theodule did not have a disciplinary history with the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, Georgia’s regulatory body for law enforcement officers. He had been a member of APD since 2008 and attended hourlong training sessions in April on de-escalation techniques and use of force, according to POST.
His police certification was in good standing as of Thursday. APD concluded that Citizen did not violate the department’s duty-to-intervene policy because Theodule kicked Samuel only once.
“Our expectation is that employees intervene in ongoing situations, whereas the kick occurred one time and then ceased,” the news release said. Police also noted that Citizen reported the incident to a supervisor shortly after it happened.
— AJC data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this article.