Arrest, death threats made over Valdosta police video

Threats to harm police and others in Valdosta after a video showing a use-of-force incident have resulted in one out-of-state arrest and increased security in the city, according to authorities.

Alexander Hassinger, 24, was arrested at his Newtown, Connecticut, home Wednesday evening on harassment and breach of peace charges.

Connecticut state police said Hassinger posted the threat earlier in the day on Twitter, writing “imma kill a cop today and when they ask my why I did it, imma tell them he was acting nervous and looked at me wrong.” Someone in Virginia reported the post, officials said.

Hassinger told The Associated Press the posting was made in jest in response to a police body camera video he saw on the internet.

The video shows a white officer in Valdosta in February throwing Antonio Smith, who is Black, to the ground while trying to handcuff him during a “suspicious activity” investigation. An officer told Smith there was a warrant for his arrest, but another officer said the person with the warrant was already detained. Police uncuffed Smith and allowed him to leave the scene.

Smith is suing Valdosta police for $700,000, saying officers used excessive force, broke his left wrist and violated his constitutional rights. Valdosta officials said they cannot comment on pending litigation. Police released body cam footage of the incident.

“City Council members, administration, staff and police department personnel have received threats of violence and death,” said Ashlyn Johnson, public information officer for the city. “Due to the nature of the threats, all information has been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

»RELATED: Black man sues Valdosta Police Dept., saying excessive force used during arrest

An FBI spokesman said the investigation is ongoing.

Johnson said there had not been any threats before June 22, the day the body cam video was released.

“It’s unfortunate – we have had to ramp up our security at city facilities and take precautions with our public safety officials,” she said.

Increased security was noted Friday at City Hall with a police check-in and Thursday at a Valdosta City Council meeting with officers wand-searching people.

Thursday, a call for violence against the families of Valdosta police officers had been tweeted several times by the same poster on Twitter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.