Four community activists said they want to see more action from Atlanta’s police chief after video surfaced showing an officer beating a Wal-Mart customer falsely accused of stealing a tomato in 2014.
“I’ve seen a lot,” activist Derrick Boazman told Channel 2 Action News. “It was a snapshot of something between Rodney King and the Edmund Pettus Bridge. My heart went out for this man.”
Standing outside police headquarters Thursday, Boazman and others said they questioned the timing of the police investigation, the background of the accused sergeant and why such force was used if the officer thought the man only stole a tomato valued at 38 cents. Michael Langford, president of the United Youth-Adult Conference, told Channel 2 the incident is an example of why body cameras are essential.
Police only recently found out about the incident, agency spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy said in a statement.
“A complaint was not filed with the APD’s Office of Professional Standards at the time of the incident,” she said. “After being made aware of this incident, Chief [George] Turner ordered the Office of Professional Standards to open an investigation into both the incident, and into why it was not reported internally.”
The injured man, 53-year-old Tyrone Carnegay of Atlanta, filed a lawsuit April 6 that alleges Sgt. Trevor King severely beat him with a baton in October 2014. King was off duty and working a security job at Wal-Mart’s Martin Luther King Jr. Drive location at the time of the incident.
Espy said the police department takes the allegations “very seriously,” and King was put on paid administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.
King, who was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2008, earns an annual salary of $67,888, police said.
In a police incident report, King said he saw “Carnegay place a tomato on the scale, weigh the tomato, place the tomato in a black bag and pass all points of sale and exit the store.”
Carnegay then tried to push pass a Wal-Mart worker and the sergeant, King said.
The sergeant told Carnegay to get on the ground, and he continued to try to push pass the officer and grab for his gun at least five times, King said.
“I struggled to get Mr. Carnegay to the ground, as I gave more commands for Mr. Carnegay to get on the ground, and as Mr. Carnegay refused and continued to tug at the left side of my gun belt, I struck Mr. Carnegay on his leg,” King said in the report. “I was finally able to get Mr. Carnegay to the ground as he pulled my flashlight out of my flashlight holder located on the left side of my gun belt and I rolled Mr. Carnegay onto his stomach, and was able to handcuff him.”
Carnegay said he was attacked for doing nothing wrong.
“As a result of Defendant King’s brutal attack, Mr. Carnegay suffered bodily injuries, including fractures to his right fibula and tibia,” Carnegay’s attorneys Craig Jones and Steven West said in the lawsuit.
Carnegay was arrested and taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and released. He was later taken to Fulton County Jail, according to the lawsuit.
Carnegay earlier faced misdemeanor charges of simple battery against police and willful obstruction of law enforcement officers, according to Fulton County court records.
Charges against him were later dropped, according to the lawsuit. Carnegay was able to produce a receipt for his purchases, according to Channel 2. He is seeking damages for pain and suffering, damage to his reputation and legal fees he incurred defending himself.
Espy, the Atlanta police spokeswoman, said Chief Turner has always made officer accountability and professional behavior priorities.
“He will continue to take decisive action when necessary to hold his employees to the highest standards,” she said.
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