When she could take the blows no longer, Katie McCrary asked a simple question.
“What did I do?”
That is what DeKalb County police officials are trying to figure out after a viral video of an officer repeatedly striking McCrary with his baton surfaced last weekend.
“It is just disgusting to watch her get beaten like that,” said Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP. “If she were an animal…if she were a dog, the officer would have already lost his job.”
The incident is the latest in a long line of recorded episodes of violence and police brutality against mostly African-Americans and meticulously chronicled on social media and by groups like Black Lives Matter.
Katie McCrary is African-American.
The officer, P.J. Larscheid, is white.
On some social media platforms, people likened the vicious beating to that of an overseer to a slave. Others said Larscheid acted appropriately, given the circumstances.
In 2015, according to a posting and photograph on the DeKalb County Police Department’s south precinct Facebook Page, Larscheid was named the 2014 Officer of the Year and recognized by the North Decatur Lions Club.
Now, black neighborhood groups in DeKalb have called for his firing and are threatening to launch a petition to see it through.
Late Tuesday night, the DeKalb County Police Department announced that pending the outcome of a new investigation into Larscheid’s use of force in the June 4 arrest of McCrary, he has been placed on “restrictive/administrative duty.”
“The investigation will cover all aspects of the use of force incident, as well as the original investigation conducted by the officer’s immediate supervisors,” said department spokesperson Shiera D. Campbell.
In his incident report, Larscheid wrote that he administered “an unknown amount of baton strikes to her left leg” after McCrary refused his commands and tried to grab his badge.
Larscheid was called to the store at about 3 p.m. that Saturday in response to a complaint that McCrary was soliciting customers for money inside a convenience store, located at 3364 Glenwood Road in Decatur.
A customer’s video of the incident recorded others in the store urging McCrary to stop resisting and follow the officer’s instructions.
“I continued my baton strikes to her legs and forearms instructing her to stop resisting and to lay down with her hands behind her back. One strike inadvertently struck the side of her head as she was moving around.”
In the 1-minute, 39-second video, Larscheid struck McCrary at least 12 times in the legs, body, face and head, before pinning her head to the floor with the baton.
With her head on the floor and Larscheid’s knee lodged against her back, McCrary reaches around her head and drapes her left arm around the baton.
Larscheid then says three times: “Let it go, or I’m gonna shoot you.”
He then gives McCrary a final blow before managing to get the handcuffs on her.
“It takes a cold and callous act by a person to beat a human being like this,” said Henry M. Carter, a DeKalb-based professional and personal development consultant. “The officer clearly didn’t value this woman as a human being.”
Campbell said earlier this week in a departmental statement that the department had not been made aware of the video until this past weekend, more than a month after the arrest.
After the incident McCrary was arrested and charged with obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers. She was also served a criminal trespass warning.
Larscheid, in his report said he saw a half-inch cut on McCrary’s left shin and a welt on her left arm. She was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital.
She was released from jail on June 6 on a $5,000 bond.
Campbell said the incident was initially investigated by the Larscheid’s supervisor and by internal affairs and that the officer’s narrative “appears to be consistent with the video.”
Campbell added, however: “Now that the department has this new evidence, we are looking to determine whether the incident is consistent with policy and the law.”
“Unfortunately, this is all too common,” the NAACP’s Johnson said. “And the question that we are required to pose after the video is revealed is common as well. We are going through the process and trust that DeKalb County will do a thorough investigation this time and that justice will be served.”
McCrary, 38, is in jail. She was arrested on July 7 on a prostitution charge. Since 2014, McCrary has been arrested at least seven times in DeKalb County, mostly on drug and prostitution charges.
The video ends with stunned onlookers watching as McCrary is led to a squad car.
Finally, a woman asks, “What’d she do?”
A voice replies, “Nothing.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.