A former Atlanta police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to a 2016 incident in which he repeatedly kicked and choked an unarmed 15-year-old until he was unconscious.
Matthew Johns, 33, pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault, one count of aggravated assault/strangulation and two counts each of making a false statement and violating his oath of office, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office announced.
On Sept. 15, 2016, Atlanta police chased a stolen BMW south on I-75. The pursuit ended on Lawton Street in southwest Atlanta when a Georgia State Patrol trooper struck the vehicle from behind, causing it to spin out.
A 15-year-old passenger identified as Antraveious Payne got out of the car and laid on the ground with his hands up, showing he did not have a weapon and was willing to surrender, prosecutors said.
Johns, a marine veteran who had been with the department for nine years , ran toward Payne and kicked him in the head three times before pressing his knee into the teen’s neck, rendering him unconscious, authorities said.
Payne suffered a number of cuts and bruises, a neck strain and a serious concussion during the arrest, prosecutors said. The entire incident was captured on officers’ dashboard cameras.
Johns told investigators he thought Payne was reaching for a gun, but the other officers on scene said the three suspects never resisted, Channel 2 reported.
He was placed on administrative leave and then fired by Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields the following July after she took over the department.
Once Johns’ fellow officers viewed the tape, they said he acted inappropriately and agreed to testify against him, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard said in a statement. Johns was indicted on criminal charges last October.
“There were no demonstrations or marches by concerned citizens, no chants or any destruction of property,” Howard said of the case. “It was not necessary because the criminal justice system did exactly what concerned citizens demand of it; fairness, transparency and action.”
Johns’ sentencing was delayed until July 29 to give the former officer time for a psychological evaluation after his defense attorney claimed he has post traumatic stress disorder, Channel 2 Action News reported.
Payne, who is now 17, has been in the Cobb County jail since Dec. 3 on aggravated assault and street gang charges.
The Atlanta teen and a friend are accused of pulling a gun on a man at a Smyrna gas station, Cobb arrest warrants show. They were captured after police discovered they posted videos of themselves riding around in stolen vehicles to their social media pages, warrants allege.
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