This arrest photo of Zayd Jackson sparked outrage on social media. 
Photo: Chatham County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Chatham County Sheriff's Office

Savannah police respond to ‘brutality’ claim, say suspect was injured by a fall

The Savannah Police Department said it has completed its investigation into an officer’s use of force after a photo emerged of a man whose face appeared bloody, battered and bruised when he was booked into jail Thursday. 

The department said the officer used the appropriate amount of force when arresting Zayd Jackson, according to a statement. 

Jackson, 35, was arrested and booked into the Chatham County Detention Center after a traffic stop, the police department confirmed. In his booking photo, his face appears swollen and he has several cuts.

On social media, some users called the incident an instance of police brutality and stated that the officers used excessive force. The incident raised questions — and skepticism about the Savannah police department’s report— after a Facebook post showed photos of Jackson’s face. 

“The officers’ report is that he fell,” the post said in part.

The post received about 5,800 comments and was shared more than 10,000 times.

Despite the public outcry, Savannah police said that’s exactly what happened. 

“The Savannah Police Department has reviewed claims of excessive force during the recent arrest of Zayd Jackson on May 2 and have determined the Savannah police officers acted appropriately and professionally during the encounter,” the department said in a statement Monday.

Police said the incident was the department’s second encounter with Jackson. The first happened April 3 about 2:30 a.m., a statement said. 

According to a police report obtained by AJC.com, an officer stopped Jackson’s 1995 Chevrolet Trailblazer because of a broken tag light in the area of White Bluff Road and Television Circle. Jackson provided his driver’s license and insurance card, but the officer was unable to confirm if the vehicle had valid insurance, police said. The officer said he smelled marijuana coming from Jackson’s car. 

“I asked Mr. Jackson if there was anything inside of the vehicle that I needed to know about,” the report said. “He advised me that there was not. I then asked Mr. Jackson if there was any marijuana inside of the vehicle. Mr. Jackson responded by saying, ‘Uh, no. Why would I have marijuana in the car? I just came from visiting my friends. I’m going home.’”

The officer said he ordered Jackson to get out of the car. He then opened the car door and again told him to get out, but Jackson refused and sped off. According to the police report, Jackson ran over two curbs and nearly hit the patrol car as he drove away. 

“Officers did not pursue Jackson at that time, but obtained warrants for obstruction, reckless driving, and fleeing and attempting to elude,” a statement from the police department said. According to the report, Jackson also had a warrant in Phoenix from 2010 and 2006. 

Police encountered Jackson again just before 10 p.m. Thursday, the department said.  

An officer stopped his vehicle “after he observed the driver driving aggressively in traffic and making lane changes without a signal in the area of Montgomery and 38th streets,”  police said. 

Savannah police said officers learned Jackson had warrants out for his arrest and put him in handcuffs. 

“While the officer was waiting for the warrants to be confirmed, Jackson began running from the scene and soon after fell, striking his face on the ground,” the department said.

Police said Jackson was taken to Memorial Medical Center and booked into the jail after being medically cleared. 

Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter said body camera footage confirms the incident. 

“After reviewing the body camera footage of the incident, I can say confidently that our officers treated Mr. Jackson professionally and courteously during the entire incident,” Minter said. “Upon learning of the injuries he suffered after falling, the officers immediately got him medical attention.

“It is unfortunate that the professionalism of the Savannah Police Department was questioned so quickly from an allegation made on social media. The Savannah Police Department takes these claims seriously, and if it was determined that officers’ actions were inappropriate, it would have been dealt with swiftly.”

The body camera footage was not released “due to it being part of an active investigation,” the department said. 

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