Activists protest Marietta cop punching unarmed suspect at IHOP
AJC Continuing Coverage
By Kristal Dixon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
April 26, 2019
Protesters gathered Friday at Marietta Square to protest the violent arrest of a man at a local restaurant.
About two dozen supporters of Renardo Lewis held the peaceful demonstration, which began at Glover Park and continued with a short march to near the entrance to the Cobb County courthouse.
Lewis has been charged by Marietta police with making terroristic threats, assaulting an officer and trying to remove their weapons during the March 31 incident at IHOP at 179 Cobb Parkway North.
During the quarter-mile march and demonstration, activists chanted phrases such as, “No justice, no peace!” and “Say his name! Renardo Lewis.”
VIDEO: In other Marietta news
Sarah Flack, an attorney representing Lewis, said she’s grateful that a bond hearing has been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. May 2 in front of Cobb Superior Court Judge C. LaTain "Tain" Kell.
Flack said the charges against her client, who has been in jail for 27 days, “do not reflect what happened.”
“They completely, I think, take it out of context,” she said of the indictment. “My client and I look forward to the day when we are in court so we can demand justice. But right now, our goal is (getting) bond.”
Officers were dispatched to the restaurant around 12:48 a.m. and began questioning Renardo Lewis and his wife, Lubreeze, who police said became "agitated" during the process.
In a video posted on Instagram by Lewis' relative, the Marietta resident and his wife repeatedly tell officers no threat was made. One officer grabs Lewis and he responds by telling the cop, "please don't grab me, sir." The officer lets go of Lewis, and tells him "I need you to understand" that he and other officers were at the restaurant to investigate the complaint.
The officer tries to get Lewis to sit down, but he refuses. The video shows the officer shoving Lewis against the wall while trying to place him in handcuffs. The video shows Lewis breaking free and the officers once again trying to restrain him. Lewis is wrestled to the ground and one officer is seen on video giving Lewis a “series of short-strike punches” while he was on the floor, Marietta police previously said.
“While the video may seem shocking to some, we are very proud that all officers used only the force necessary to place Mr. Lewis in handcuffs,” Marietta police previously said in a statement.
Flack said the first priority of Marietta officers responding to IHOP should have been to deescalate the situation. Instead, the officers treated the couple like “second-class citizens,” she said.
If they had not come in with “guns blazing,” Flack said she, Lewis’ family and the protesters would not be taking to the streets to make their voices heard.
“They chose to assume the worst, and they chose to take it up 10 notches when they should not have done that,” she said, adding there was no reason for the officers to punch her client, who was unarmed, in the face and head while he was on the ground.
Marietta police spokesman Chuck McPhilamy said the agency conducted a review to determine if the officers’ actions were in line with the department’s policies. That review indicated the cops who responded to the IHOP call acted within the guidelines and they all remain active duty.
Now that the grand jury has returned an indictment, Flack said she will file motions to obtain body camera footage of the incident from Marietta Police Department. Flack said the facts of the case -- including whether Lewis actually tried to take an officer's gun -- will come out in court.
“And I think that the video out now speaks for itself as well,” she added.
Flack said her office also asked Marietta police to allow the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate the case, a request she said the agency denied.
The Cobb County District Attorney’s Office filed a notice to inform Lewis and his defense attorney that they will consider his prior drug possession convictions in the sentencing phase if he’s found guilty of the charges. Flack also criticized that move.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous and another example of how this system tries to railroad good, reputable, wonderful people,” she said, adding Lewis’ convictions are from when he was 16, 19 and 22 years old.
Lewis, a restaurant owner now in his 40s, is a married father of four who, despite having those drug convictions, managed to turn his life around, his attorney said. He obtained a certificate, become a chef, bought a home and opened RC Southern Cooking at 1516 Roswell Road in Marietta.
Lubreeze Lewis said she doesn’t understand why Marietta police are putting the blame on her husband because “he didn’t do anything wrong.” The family is juggling Lewis’ arrest while trying to keep the restaurant open. They’ve had to close some days because they don’t have enough staff members, but Lewis said they have been getting a lot of support from the community.
One Marietta resident lending his support is Davian Kuykendoll, who joined the protesters Friday in their demonstration. Kuykendoll said he knows the Lewis’ from the restaurant, and believed Marietta police handled the incident with excessive force.
Kuykendoll added he spends much of his time coaching and telling young black men how to handle and deescalate encounters with police. In watching the video, Kuykendoll wondered if officers drew their own conclusions about Lewis before they arrived at the IHOP.