The veteran officer who fatally shot a man outside an Atlanta police annex in late January was already under investigation for allegedly assaulting a patron at a Midtown gay bar, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
Anthony Walters, 25, said he was badly beaten, with injuries to his face that required hospitalization, after an altercation last October with Officer Yasim Abdulahad at Bulldogs on Peachtree Street, where the policeman was providing security as a side job.
“Long story short, this is about an out-of-control officer who slammed my client until he was unconscious,” said Riah Greathouse, one of Walters’ attorneys.
Atlanta police confirmed they were investigating the incident but said the probe has been hampered by Walters’ refusal to consent to an interview. Until he does, investigators have no reason to doubt Abdulahad’s account, said Atlanta Police Department spokesman Warren Pickard.
But Chris Stewart, who also represents Walters along with the family of the man killed by Abdulahad outside the police annex, said the officer has already proven he can’t be trusted.
Abdulahad’s account of the events leading up to the shooting of 24-year-old Deaundre Phillips on Jan. 26 was contradicted last week by surveillance footage that captured the incident. Abdulahad told agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that he was hanging halfway out of the car driven by Phillips, but the footage shows he was fully inside the vehicle.
Stewart said there are striking inconsistencies that cast suspicion on Abdulahad’s actions outside Bulldogs.
“Nobody should ever strike an officer, but then (Walters is) not charged with assault on an officer,” he said. “He’s not charged with felony obstruction. He’s not charged with any of that stuff.”
Pickard said Walters could have been charged more harshly.
“Most likely the officer was being lenient,” he said.
In his incident report, Abdulahad said Walters had been kicked out of the club but refused to leave. He then became belligerent and punched the officer in the forehead, said Abdulahad, who was in full uniform at the time.
A scuffle ensued as Abdulahad tried to place Walters in handcuffs, causing the suspect to fall to the ground, the report states. Abdulahad said Walters’ injuries resulted from the fall.
Walters acknowledged having a few drinks but said he has no memory of the altercation and said he would never strike an officer.
“I don’t see what I could have done to anybody to deserve having my face beat in like that,” Walters said. “If he told me to leave, I would’ve left.”
Pickard said APD officers are trained to use necessary force to make an arrest and “we believe that is what happened here unless there’s evidence that contradicts that.”
“The officer, along with another officer on the scene and a witness clearly state that Mr. Walters was belligerent, refused to leave the scene,” he said.
Greathouse said his client plans to cooperate with investigators but said there were many other witnesses whose statements were not taken by Abdulahad. Walters said he hasn’t talked to police because he was advised not to do so without legal counsel.
A Bulldogs employee told TheAJC there are video cameras on the bar’s back patio, but it’s unclear whether they would’ve captured the fracas.
APD’s internal affairs division was made aware of the incident by Abdulahad last October, who told them he used force to conduct a “lawful arrest,” Pickard said. The photos of Walters’ injuries were posted online shortly thereafter and investigators reached out to the person who uploaded them but “the response was negative,” according to Pickard.
“As it stands, Mr. Walters is the only person that can legitimately dispute the officer’s report,” he said. “That’s why it’s important that we hear from him.”
It’s uncertain how this incident might impact the investigation into Phillips’ death in January. Due to the contradictions between Abdulahad’s account of the events leading up to the annex shooting and the surveillance video that captured it, the officer’s veracity is now an issue.
Stewart said it would be “extremely significant” in civil litigation against Abdulahad, arguing the alleged beating of Walters shows a penchant for excessive force that could’ve been prevented.
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