Atlanta police officer indicted, relieved of duty following 2019 incident

Officer accused of tackling and breaking man’s ankle

An Atlanta police officer has been indicted following a 2019 incident that left a man’s ankle broken.

Donald Vickers, 42, was charged with aggravated battery and violation of oath by public officer. According to the indictment filed Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court, Vickers broke Tyler Griffin’s left ankle after tackling him during an arrest on April 5, 2019.

Griffin was pulled over by Vickers and another officer who said they suspected him of driving under the influence. A suit filed by Griffin said an unmarked car followed him around Westside Atlanta in the middle of the night.

A police report said Griffin almost hit their patrol vehicle and drove on the wrong side of the road. Griffin said in his lawsuit that was afraid he was being pursued by carjackers.

ExploreSuit: APD cop breaks man’s ankle, calls him ‘little girl’ for hurting

After Griffin turned on a private driveway, a flashlight was shown in Griffin’s face. Officer Matthew Abad ordered Griffin out of the car at gunpoint, body cam footage shows.

As Griffin and Abad talked, Abad touched Griffin’s right shoulder, after which Griffin brushed the officer’s hand away, the footage shows. Griffin and Abad continued to talk until Vickers sprinted toward Griffin and tackled him.

The footage then shows Vickers and two other officers laughing at Griffin. Officers instructed him to walk and laughed as he wailed in pain, the video shows. Vickers bragged about the “skid marks” his tackle had left, the footage shows.

“It hurts! It hurts!” Griffin can be heard saying.

“You sound like a little girl right now,” Vickers responds. “We’re laughing because you fell pretty hard after pushing an officer, man. I find that funny.”

Vickers was charged with reckless conduct in 2010 after he allegedly approached three men with a semi-automatic assault rifle, chambered a round and pointed the rifle at the men as they were being escorted from Underground Atlanta, The Atlanta Journal Constitution previously reported.

Vickers, who joined APD in 2006, had been suspended for a few days after the 2010 incident. His Georgia P.O.S.T. certification is currently active. In a statement, the Atlanta Police Department said Vickers is still employed with the department but has been relieved of duty following the indictment.

Vickers will remain on that status pending an emergency hearing with the police chief. Abad is also still employed by the department.

Griffin’s Attorneys Jeb Butler and Matthew Kahn said they speak to Griffin on a regular basis.

“This is something that Tyler lives with every day,” Kahn said. “He is constantly thinking about this. He’s got screws and pins in his ankle so every day he is walking and feeling pain in his ankle and it’s a constant reminder of the trauma he went through.”

Butler said they were pleased with the indictment.

“We feel like that is overdue and it shows the court system working and the justice system working, although slower that we would have liked,” Butler said. “We want to see these police officers and the city of Atlanta held to account. We want to see systemic changes. We want to see an incentive for the city and its officers to stop doing this going forward so there are no more victims.”

Credit: Emily Haney

Credit: Emily Haney

Griffin’s suit was filed in federal court on June 15, 2020, days after an Atlanta police officer fatally shot Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy’s near downtown. The shooting death led to a string of protests and prompted Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields to step aside as chief and later resign.

Shields, who now leads the Louisville, Kentucky Police Department, said in a December 2020 deposition that the department needed to look into changing its use of force policy. She suggested the department should make sure the deputy chief, assistant chief and the chief of police sign off on all use-of-force files.

Shields made the suggestion after finding out during the deposition that Vickers was exonerated in December 2019 by the APD’s Office of Professional Standards after breaking multiple department policies and the use of force incident. Shields said she didn’t know why the use of force file on Vickers was never sent to her office for review.

“Chief Shields definitely got it right,” Kahn said. “The city has a big problem with the way it handles these excessive force cases and something needs to be done about it. Otherwise this is going to keep happening time and time again.”

Vickers and Abad filed a motion in July 2022 asking the court to stay all proceedings regarding the case until a federal grand jury investigation or the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office investigation could be completed. They also argued that they won’t be able to testify because they would invoke their Fifth Amendment right but Kahn said they already waived that right after testifying in the case.

Griffin’s attorneys hope that a pre-trial conference on Sept. 9 will help clear up a few issues before a jury trial which is tentatively scheduled to start at the end of September.