Five suburban Atlanta police officers have been indicted on charges related to the death of a man they pressed into the ground outside a music festival in 2019.
Body camera footage showed that Fernando Rodriguez was naked and confused but not combative when approached by the officers outside the Atlanta Motor Speedway, where the Imagine Music Festival was being held, and ordered to halt. When he kept walking, one of the officers stunned him with a Taser, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Rodriguez fell to the ground face up, and the officers ordered him to roll over. When he didn’t immediately comply, they Tased him several more times, eventually forcing him to lie on his stomach. Then they handcuffed him and knelt on his arms, neck, and back for about 10 minutes before an ambulance arrived. He was taken to a hospital, where he died two days later. The medical examiner ruled he died by homicide due to asphyxiation.
Henry County police officers Robert Butera and Quinton Phillips and Hampton police officers Mason Lewis, Marcus Stroud, and Gregory Bowlden have been charged with one count each of malice murder, two counts each of felony murder, and one count each of aggravated assault, according to Henry County Assistant District Attorney Megan Matteucci.
Rodriguez’s family filed wrongful death suits against both the Henry County and Hampton Police Departments, saying they should have given him medical aid instead of restraining him. The Hampton department settled with the family for $3 million; legal action against Henry County is ongoing. The lawsuits say the officers Tased Rodriguez 16 times during the incident.
Matteucci said the grand jury heard two days of testimony from witnesses before returning a true bill. All five of the officers have also been charged with violating their oath of office.
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[Featured image: Fernando Rodriguez/GoFundMe]