Family, police settle lawsuit for $3M in death of naked man stunned after festival

Fernando Rodriguez died in 2019.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Fernando Rodriguez died in 2019.

The family of a 24-year-old metro Atlanta man who died in police custody in 2019 has reached a settlement months after filing a lawsuit against the officers they said deployed their Tasers multiple times on his naked body and pinned him to the ground.

Fernando Octavio Rodriguez’s family accepted a $3 million settlement for their claims against the city of Hampton and its police officers Gregory Bowlden, Mason Lewis and Marcus Stroud, according to attorney Page Pate.

“This settlement resolves the case brought by our firm on behalf of Mr. Rodriguez’s family against the city and its officers,” Pate said.

While the lawsuit against the Hampton police officers is resolved, Rodriguez’s family is still pursuing legal action against Henry County and two Henry police officers, Robert Butera and Quinton Phillips, who were involved in the incident.

“Our claims against Henry County and several of its officers remain pending in federal court,” Pate said.

In May, the family filed the lawsuit claiming Rodriguez was stunned at least 16 times following a music festival on Sept. 20, 2019. Pate, who is representing Rodriguez’s family in the case, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the officers also made “unprofessional” statements about the naked man while he was writhing in pain and kneeled on his body until he lost consciousness.

“The complaint then alleges that officers placed Mr. Rodriguez on his stomach, known as the prone position, handcuffed him, and kneeled and stood on his head, neck and back,” Pate previously said in a statement. “Video from body cameras shows that officers became aware that Mr. Rodriguez had stopped breathing and was unresponsive, but the officers continued to pin Mr. Rodriguez to the ground for several minutes.”

Rodriguez was confronted by police after leaving the Imagine Music Festival at Atlanta Motor Speedway, officials said. Officers encountered a naked Rodriguez about 10 p.m. after someone called 911 and reported that an “unclothed man” was walking near the intersection of Oak Street and Windsor Parkway.

Police body camera footage has been released from a 2019 incident involving a 24-year-old man who later died in Henry County. Video edited by Ryon Horne

The complaint gives a second-by-second account of the volatile, nearly 30-minute exchange between the unarmed man and the officers. Body camera footage from one of the officers involved captured the full incident from the moment police encountered Rodriguez walking down an empty street, to the first time he’s stunned with a Taser, right up until he’s carried away to a hospital by an ambulance.

The footage shows the officers standing and kneeling on Rodriguez’s body for nearly 10 minutes while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. In the video, the officers and Rodriguez are heard having several heated verbal exchanges. On numerous occasions, officers are heard telling Rodriguez to lay on his stomach and the naked man is heard refusing to do so.

After Rodriguez was loaded into an ambulance unresponsive, he was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where doctors discovered he was suffering from respiratory failure, renal failure, anoxic brain injury, cardiac arrest and acute blood loss anemia. He died in the hospital two days later.

The AJC has reached out to the city of Hampton for a statement on the settlement.

Bowlden and Lewis are still employed by the Hampton Police Department, where they have worked since 2017 and 2018, respectively, according to Peace Officer Standards and Training Council records. Stroud resigned from the department in 2019.