After a video posted to Twitter Sunday night appeared to show Georgia trooper stomping on a suspect who was lying on the ground in Atlanta, the Georgia State Patrol announced it would investigate the unnamed officer’s use of force.
As the video starts, the officer can be seen stomping on the chest and arm of a man lying on the sidewalk — a move that the agency has euphemistically dubbed a “foot strike.” The Georgia trooper then handcuffs the suspect and tells a nearby woman to stay back, before escorting the man away as the video ends.
A second video, recorded from an upper-story window in a building across the street, appears to show the officer pursuing the man in his vehicle, before parking and exiting on foot. The man is seen running from the trooper before he trips and falls. When he stands back up and begins to run again, the officer can be heard firing his stun gun twice, which state police have confirmed.
Lt. Mark Riley spokesman for the Georgia State Patrol claimed that the man pursued in the video drove away from a traffic stop after the trooper pulled him over for driving without a seatbelt.
Riley said that, after a short pursuit, the man exited his vehicle on foot, allegedly “with his right hand inside his waistband.” The officer can be seen in the second video following the man into a residential area before continuing the chase on foot.
The Georgia trooper claimed to see a handgun fall from the man’s waistband as he fled, but the agency said he did not see where it landed, and believed the man was still armed when he began stomping on his body.
No firearm is visible in either video, but in the first video, the Georgia trooper tells an eyewitness to “stay away from that gun,” pointing to an obscured area on the sidewalk.
All uses of force by police in Georgia are reviewed by the officer’s chain of command, per state policy. Georgia State Patrol declined to name the trooper in the video, and he is reportedly still on duty while the incident is being investigated.
According to the Georgia’s Department of Public Safety’s policies, officers are entitled to use “physical strength” to control a suspect.
The suspect in the video, 27-year-old Jamarco Lucas of Decatur, Georgia, is reportedly on probation has an outstanding arrest warrant for simple battery, stemming from a 2017 domestic violence incident.
He has been charged with fleeing a police officer, obstructing a police officer, a weapons charge, and at least six traffic violations accrued during the pursuit.
Lucas’ record notwithstanding, the episode has once again raised questions of police brutality and accountability — topics that have remained at the forefront of American political life after the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer last summer.
“You have someone on the ground already, there’s no need to stomp on them,” Atlanta area activist Scotty Smart told WSB-TV. “I think that’s a clear case of excessive force […] You could easily apprehend the suspect by simply placing handcuffs on him. Stomping on him two or three times looks like an emotional reaction.”
Civilian oversight boards that do exist are often limited by the collective bargaining agreements localities make with police unions — many have no investigative authority and cannot issue subpoenas, meaning that officers still have final control over investigations into their conduct.