Sheriff fires Clayton deputy seen hitting man in viral video of arrest

A Clayton County deputy has been fired after cellphone video surfaced that appears to show him repeatedly punching a man during an arrest. A photo shared by Roderick Walker's attorney shows him with a black eye while wearing an orange jail jumpsuit.

A Clayton County deputy has been fired after cellphone video surfaced that appears to show him repeatedly punching a man during an arrest. A photo shared by Roderick Walker's attorney shows him with a black eye while wearing an orange jail jumpsuit.

A Clayton County deputy seen repeatedly hitting a man in a now-viral arrest video has been fired for using excessive force, Sheriff Victor Hill announced Sunday.

The deputy, whose name has not been released, was placed on administrative leave without pay Friday evening after cellphone footage of the encounter appeared to show him punching 26-year-old Roderick Walker during a traffic stop.

Videos captured by at least two bystanders have been viewed thousands of times online since Friday afternoon. The footage shows two deputies on top of Walker as he’s lying on the ground. One of the deputies is seen repeatedly striking the man as the other attempts to place him in handcuffs. (Editor’s note: A video below includes graphic content and language.)

It’s unclear if the deputy who hit Walker faces charges, but Hill said a “criminal investigation” into the incident will be turned over to the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office.

Walker is Black and the two deputies who made the arrest are white. The incident comes after months of protests across the nation calling for an end to police violence and racial injustice.

Roderick Walker

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

Attorney Shean Williams said Walker and his girlfriend were passengers in an SUV that was stopped for not having a taillight. During the stop, deputies asked to see Walker’s driver’s license even though he was not the one behind the wheel, Williams said.

“Our client was asked for his ID and he responded that he did not have it and didn’t need it since he was not driving,” Williams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He inquired why he was being asked for his ID. That response obviously did not sit well with the officer.”

Williams said the deputy demanded that his client get out of the vehicle and attempted to arrest him. That’s when bystanders began recording the encounter.

Editor’s note: The video below includes graphic content and language.

During the arrest, witnesses can be heard telling the deputies to get off Walker, who says he can’t breathe. There were two children inside the stopped SUV and they can be heard crying in the background.

“Our client ends up being beaten in his face and throughout his body to the point he goes unconscious,” Williams said, “all because of an alleged traffic violation.”

Walker can be seen bleeding from his face by the time he is led away in handcuffs. The former deputy seen throwing punches in the video told witnesses the man bit his hand.

Williams said the violent encounter shows the “unfortunate truth” of what can happen when Black Americans interact with law enforcement, and called for criminal charges against both deputies involved.

“Representing people of color, I often see where officers are escalating violence with actions disproportionate to the circumstances,” he said. “There’s no reason that a traffic violation should end up with someone being beaten in the manner that Mr. Walker was beaten.”

On Saturday evening, Walker’s attorney and family held a news conference outside the Clayton County Jail, where the 26-year-old remains held on two counts of battery and two counts of obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers, jail records show.

The family called for Walker’s immediate release, as well as a thorough investigation into the incident by an outside agency.

In a news release, Hill said he ordered a signature bond for Walker on Friday so he could be released from the jail. That request was denied because Walker has a felony probation warrant out of Fulton County charging him with cruelty to children, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and failure to appear in court, the sheriff said.

“Mr. Walker’s legal counsel will have to resolve these issues to secure his release,” Hill said, adding Walker received medical treatment at the jail and that X-rays showed no sign of broken bones.

Williams said his client was not arrested for being on probation or having an open case in another county, and called Hill’s statement "just a weak attempt to deflect from his lack of leadership and continuous encouragement that his deputies violate peoples' civil rights.”

Carrying signs, a group of protesters returned to the Clayton County Jail on Sunday afternoon, demanding Walker’s release and calling for an end to police violence against Black people.

Kawan Ward, 2, leads Black Lives Matter chants in a megaphone as protesters gather in front of the Clayton County Jail in Jonesboro on Sunday, September 13, 2020. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Vince Champion, Southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, said some departments have been quick to terminate officers in the wake of recent protests across the U.S.

“They seem to not be willing to let the investigations go all the way through before they actually take any type of action,” said Champion, whose organization does not represent the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office.

He added there are “some videos that are more detailed than others,” however, and that it’s possible the sheriff saw something on the cellphone footage that Hill believed warranted the deputy’s termination within two days of launching an internal investigation.

The AJC reached out to the sheriff’s office for comment over the weekend but has not received a response.

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