Two Atlanta police cars were pelted with bricks, rocks and hammers Tuesday night after they cruised into a neighborhood where residents were already angered over cell phone footage that captured a man being beaten by several officers.
According to WSBTV, that man and another woman were questioning why a separate arrest was taking place. Instead of answering their questions, witnesses say police responded with “direct violence.”
“Neighbors told us officers beat Cory Hill and Nakia Jenkins, and pepper sprayed several others including children,” reported WSBTV’s Amy Napier Viteri.
The cell phone video, captured on Monday, shows Hill being bludgeoned by at least 3 different policemen while he struggles to shield his face and body from repeated baton blows.
“The police choked him from the back and wrestled him down and pepper-sprayed him and was beating him with a baton,” the suspect’s mother Nisele Browning told CBS Atlanta.
Another witness, Anthony Jenkins, told CBS, “They beat him, beat him in the head with batons, he’s got a blood clot in his eye and I don’t know if he has gotten treatment since they locked him up.”
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner says Hill was verbally harassing the officers, and also says Jenkins jumped on the back of a cop, a claim one witness, Marlon Kautz, a member of an activist group called CopWatch, disputes.
Kautz also says he and other CopWatch volunteers saw police striking one of the suspects behind a dumpster.
The next night, two police cruisers returned to monitor protests in the neighborhood. That’s when witnesses say the cars were surrounded by more than 50 angry neighborhood residents and demonstrators who threw rocks, bricks and hammers at the cars causing minor dents and scrapes.
One officer said he was scared and thought they were being shot. “When a brick hits your car it almost sounds like a gunshot, it’s scary,” Sgt Greg Lyon said. “The officers riding through had nothing to do with that arrest and were simply going to check out what was going on and were subsequently attacked by these brick-wielding individuals.”
Reportedly, police arrested one CopWatch member Tuesday night. “The person arrested actually punched the window next to one of the officers of the vehicle. In this case he wasn’t a brick thrower, he used his hands,” Sgt Lyon stated.
The police chief says the incident will sour the otherwise “great relationship” police had with members of the community, but Kautz told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the neighborhood has long been fearful of police, remarking, “Everyone I talk to over there is terrified of the police.”
Police say an investigation will be conducted to determine whether or not officers acted accordingly in the video.