ATLANTA (AP) — A Black man who was pinned down and repeatedly punched by a white Georgia sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop that was caught on video said Friday that he couldn't breathe and lost consciousness during the arrest.
"I was scared. I feared for my life, and I just pray, just hope that it don't happen to nobody else," Roderick Walker told reporters at his lawyer's office, his left eye still bloodshot.
The deputy seen repeatedly hitting Walker was fired for "excessive use of force," according to a statement Sunday from the Clayton County Sheriff's Office. He was later identified as Brandon Myers.
Shean Williams, an attorney for Walker, told reporters Friday that Myers was hired by the sheriff's office in November 2019. In less than a year, Myers was involved in five other use of force incidents during traffic stops, Williams said.
"He should have been fired before last Friday is my point," Williams said.
In each of those previous incidents, Myers' actions were reviewed by a supervisor and found to be in compliance with department policy, according to use of force reports from the sheriff's office distributed by Williams.
Walker, 26, was released on bond Thursday from the Fulton County jail in Atlanta. He was beaten and arrested after sheriff's deputies in neighboring Clayton County pulled over a Jeep Grand Cherokee he was riding in on Sept. 11, citing a broken taillight and a front-seat passenger not wearing a seatbelt, according to an incident report.
The arrest, captured on video by a bystander and shared widely, shows two deputies on top of Walker, one of whom repeatedly punches him. Walker's girlfriend screams and tells the deputies Walker said he can't breathe. A child in the vehicle yells, "Daddy."
As Walker is handcuffed, the deputy who punched him tells the bystander that Walker bit him. Walker later wobbles and appears to try to jerk free as deputies get him on his feet.
Clayton County sheriff's Deputy D. Riddick wrote in an incident report that he asked the front seat passenger, later identified as Walker, for identification because he was violating a state seatbelt law. Walker refused to identify himself and fled when Riddick tried to handcuff him, the deputy wrote.
Riddick and Myers "grabbed Walker and placed him on the ground" and then "Walker started to fight with us," Riddick wrote. Walker hit both deputies in the face, bloodying their noses, and then got up and took off running, the report says. Riddick used his Taser on Walker, bringing him to the ground, the report says.
Walker continued to fight, and it was not until a third deputy arrived that deputies were able to handcuff Walker and put him in the back of a patrol car, the report says.
Williams disputed assertions that his client was the aggressor.
"He wasn't attacking them or beating them," Williams said. "He's trying to survive."
Walker was arrested on charges of obstructing officers and battery, according to jail records. Walker's lawyers said they hope Clayton County District Attorney Tasha Mosley will dismiss the charges.
Walker's lawyers worked with prosecutors to secure bond in Clayton County and then in Fulton County, where he had an outstanding probation violation warrant.
Walker suffered a mild traumatic brain injury from being thrown to the ground and beaten and also has blurred double vision in his left eye, as well as injuries to his jaw, arm, back and knees, said Jane Lamberti, another attorney for Walker. The sheriff's deputies denied Walker medical attention that he needed and asked for, she said.
Williams alleged that what happened to Walker is part of "a systemic pattern and practice that is encouraged by the Clayton County Sheriff's Department to violate people's civil rights."
Williams urged anyone else who has been involved in similar incidents with Clayton County sheriff's deputies to get in touch with him, saying he plans to "pursue all legal avenues to hold them accountable."
The Clayton County Sheriff's Office did not immediately return a voicemail Friday seeking comment.