Attorney: Woman suing Atlanta cops over body-slam during 2020 unrest

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Amber Jackson’s X-ray showed her collarbone broken in two.

The 25-year-old dental hygienist had been “body-slammed” onto the pavement outside Lenox Square Mall. It happened on May 29, 2020, an intense first night of anti-police-brutality demonstrations across Atlanta. After throwing Jackson to the ground, police charged her with disorderly conduct. But according to Jackson’s lawyers, officers made no mention in records of injuring Jackson, or even using force on her at all.

A bystander filmed the officer slam the woman to the ground.

“Without this video, this would’ve been swept under the rug,” Decatur attorney Mawuli Davis said at a Friday news conference, announcing a lawsuit against two Atlanta Police Department officers and the city.

In a statement at the time of the arrest, Atlanta police said an officer approached Jackson after she tried to remove a barricade that was blocking the road.

“The woman refused the officer’s orders to exit the vehicle,” a spokesman said then. “He attempted to get her out of the car and the two struggled. During her effort to resist the arrest, the officer had to force her to the ground to get her in handcuffs.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, alleges police had no justification to even pull Jackson over in the mall parking lot, let alone pull her from the car and violently slam her to the ground. The suit is against the city and officers Cody Swanger and Jeremiah Brandt.

Swanger is accused of bragging about how he took down Jackson. One officer can be heard calling her stupid as she sits with a broken collarbone.

According to Atlanta police, Swanger received a two-day suspension and a written reprimand. Brandt received two written reprimands. “Both officers are still employed by APD in normal capacity,” said Officer Steve Avery.

Jackson’s attorneys said the officers’ punishments weren’t nearly enough.

“She had done nothing wrong,” said Harold Spence, another of Jackson’s attorneys, “but what we see time and again … the default mechanism to lie. When you have video, that lie has a temporary lifespan.”

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Jackson, whose attorneys said she was out of work for months because of her injury and major surgery, said she was tired of feeling uneasy around police and wanted things to change.

“I never thought that would happen to me. And to think there’s worst cases than mine,” Jackson said at the attorneys’ office.

The woman who took the video, Heather Upham, said Swanger’s punishment was a “slap on the hand.”

“This is exactly why we’re protesting,” she said. “She could’ve been the next George Floyd.”