A DeKalb County police officer accused of illegally charging a man with possessing marijuana in 2012 turned himself in Friday.
Officer Demetrius A. Kendrick was indicted Thursday by a DeKalb grand jury on a charge of violation of oath by public officer.
The man he arrested, Alphonso Eleby, says video footage showed Kendrick planting the pot himself.
Kendrick, 33, was booked into jail Friday around 9:30 a.m., and released on $10,000 bond just after 10:15 a.m., according to jail records. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison, prosecutors say.
He was put on restrictive duty, off the streets, in March 2013, police said, and is now on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
Prosecutors say Kendrick, a five-year DeKalb officer, knew Eleby didn’t have marijuana on him July 6, 2012 when officers saw Eleby talking to someone in a black SUV at a gas station on North Hairston Road.
Officers said they smelled marijuana and arrested the person in the vehicle, according to police reports obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Eleby’s attorney Mark Bullman said his client was detained and strip-searched, but no drugs were found.
Channel 2 Action News obtained video of the incident that shows a female officer watch Eleby while other officers search the SUV. Then a male officer Bullman identified as Kendrick calls her over to the SUV. While she searches it, he circles back to Eleby and tosses what could be marijuana next to him.
The video shows Eleby protesting what he sees the officer do and the officer putting him in a chokehold as other officers look on.
Kendrick wrote in his incident report, “I observed Mr. Eleby throw a small piece of a green leafy substance behind him.”
Bullman said, “My client had his hands on his knees as he was instructed and all of his pockets were rabbit-eared. They’d searched in his crotch and reached inside his underwear and found nothing. Where was he going to hide drugs?”
The DeKalb County Solicitor-General’s office dropped the charges against Eleby in March 2013, but not because of the video. According to court records, police couldn’t find the marijuana in time for it to be tested and used at trial.
Police said an internal investigation into Kendrick’s conduct was started early last month.
Bullman said he was glad police took that step, but, “It is disturbing, at best that it took almost two years … for the DeKalb County Police Department to initiate an internal investigation into this matter.”
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.