Trooper who arrested Ga. lawmaker says he was wary of a Jan. 6-type of attack

A Georgia State Patrol lieutenant said memories of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol were on his mind when he arrested a Democratic legislator after she knocked repeatedly on the door of Gov. Brian Kemp’s state office as he was touting a sweeping new elections law.

The officer, Lt. G.D. Langford, said in a 13-page incident report that he was worried that other protesters would have been “emboldened” to follow state Rep. Park Cannon’s lead if he didn’t arrest her after she refused his requests to stop knocking on Kemp’s private second-floor office in the Georgia Capitol.

“The events of January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol were in the back of my mind,” he wrote in a report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I didn’t want the protestors to attempt to gain entry into a secure part of the Capitol,” Langford wrote. “I believed Cannon’s actions of obstructing law enforcement in front of agitated protestors to constitute a breach of the peace.”

The Atlanta Democrat said she did nothing to warrant the two felonies she faces after she rapped on a door outside Kemp’s private office Thursday while he was delivering livestreamed remarks about a Republican-backed law that includes restrictions on voting. Her attorney, Gerald Griggs, vowed to fight the charges in court.

The Jan. 6 insurrection left five people dead and many more injured after former President Donald Trump incited a mob of rioters, some of them armed, to assault the U.S. Capitol to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

Cannon is a state legislator who stood alone in the moments before she gently knocked on a side door in the Georgia Capitol’s Rotunda seeking access to Kemp’s remarks about a measure she adamantly opposed.

As Kemp abruptly cut off his prepared speech, authorities outside his office dragged Cannon out of the building and to the Fulton County Jail, prompting an hours-long vigil attended by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and other Democratic leaders.

Her arrest has become a symbol of raw emotions surrounding Georgia’s election overhaul, which imposes voter ID requirements, limits drop boxes and gives the Republican-controlled Legislature more control over local elections after Democratic wins in November and January.

In the report, Langford said he warned Cannon he would arrest her if she defied his demand that she stop knocking on Kemp’s door before noticing that a crowd of other demonstrators gathered in the lobby “began to get louder as she was refusing to follow my commands.”

He said he stepped back and crossed his feet “in an attempt to de-escalate the situation” by displaying a calm demeanor, but that Cannon began to knock again. That’s when he grabbed her right wrist and, with the help of another officer, handcuffed her as she struggled against them.

Langford said that as the officers took her to a nearby elevator he urged Cannon to “stop making it worse” as she dragged her feet. He said she stomped on his right foot several times with her high heels as he and the other officer dragged her to a waiting vehicle.

The report includes a picture of a scuffed boot and what it says is bruising on Langford’s right foot. It also features two images of Cannon being dragged outside the Capitol.

“I’ve tried a lot of cases. It’s not often that the witnesses and the cameras saw everything that transpired,” said Griggs, Cannon’s lawyer. “Those alleged injuries — if there are any — are not consistent with the witnesses, the evidence or the video.”

Meanwhile, two other officers said in the same incident report that they rushed to secure the governor after Cannon’s arrest, interrupting him as he spoke to a TV camera in his mostly empty ceremonial office.

Sgt. N. Jenkins said a panicked Kemp staffer told him to “lock the office down and move the Governor and First Lady from the Ceremonial Office as the side door was shaking so violently, he felt it would be breached.”

And Officer Vince Mooney said he was inside Kemp’s office when a staffer told him “the crowd was attempting to breach the wooden doors” that Cannon had been knocking.

“We briefly secured the Governor and First Lady for a short period of time and resumed his live conference a short time later,” Mooney said.

Witnesses interviewed by the AJC said there was no attempt to “breach” the doorway.

“Nobody touched that door. We didn’t go anywhere near that door. We followed the police officers who were taking Park into the elevator,” said Tamara Stevens, an activist who was with Cannon and filmed the encounter. “There was no attempt, flat out, to breach the door.”

Added Stevens: “She’s the only person that touched the door, period. Without any hesitation.”

Cannon returned to the Statehouse on Monday for the first time since she was arrested, leading a solemn march that circled the building with Martin Luther King III and dozens of supporters clad in black T-shirts that read “Stand With Park.”

Rep. Erica Thomas (D-Austell), left, Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), second from left and Rep. Debra Bazemore (D-Riverdale), third from right, escort Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta), center, to her seat in the House Chambers at the Georgia State Capitol Building on day 39 of the legislative session in Atlanta, Georgia on Monday, March 29, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

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