Electronic dance

5 Georgian officers charged with murder in the death of a festival-goer


Five Georgian officers have been charged with murder in the asphyxiation death of a festival-goer near Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2019, prosecutors said on Friday.

Fernando Rodriguez, 24, was naked and walking on a road after attending the Imagine Music Festival on the track in Hampton, Ga. On September 20, 2019, when officers confronted him, used a stun gun and then fought back. piled up, according to the Henry County Attorney’s Office, and edited body camera video.

He died in hospital days later and a state medical examiner ruled he died of homicide by asphyxiation.

After two days of testimony, a county grand jury issued indictments for each of the five officers on Friday for one count of malicious murder, two counts of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault, the report said. prosecutor’s office.

The grand jury also charged each officer with one count of violating the oath, according to the prosecutor’s office.

They have been identified as Henry County Police Officers Robert Butera and Quinton Phillips, and Hampton Police Officers Marcus Stroud, Gregory Bowlden and Mason Lewis.

Stroud resigned from the department on October 16, 2019, and Bowlden and Lewis resigned this year on August 5, said Hampton City manager Alex Cohilas. The status of the county officers was unclear. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in May that they were still employed as police officers.

The indicted officers could not be contacted through law enforcement agencies, and their departments did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

Arrest warrants for the officers are expected to be issued next week, the prosecutor’s office said.

Cohilas said by email that the City of Hampton is cooperating with the District Attorney, and added: “In light of the indictments and ongoing criminal proceedings in this case, the city will not comment further on the matter. moment. ”

The freeway is in Hampton, in the southeastern part of Metro Atlanta, which is part of Henry County.

Page A. Pate, a lawyer for Rodriguez’s family, said in a statement on Saturday that his survivors were happy with the indictment.

“Fernando’s family are patiently awaiting justice in this matter and are very happy to see the process moving forward now,” said Pate. “We are especially grateful that the officers have all been charged with murder and we believe the charges match the crime.”

The prosecutor’s office said officers violated their oath “by laying Rodriguez on the floor in a supine position while he was handcuffed and shackled, holding him down and applying pressure to his body.”

He was also subjected to more than a dozen electric shocks, prosecutors said.

Rodriguez was leaving the electronic dance music festival when the confrontation occurred, prosecutors said.

It is not known why Rodriguez was naked. His family’s lawyers said he needed medical attention before the police reached him.

Fernando Rodriguez was Tasered by Hampton County police officers in 2019.Pate, Johnson & Church Law Firm

Edited body camera video of the confrontation provided by lawyers for Rodriguez’s family shows an officer using a stun gun pointed at his back as he walks away from the police.

An officer threatened to hit his teeth while he was on the ground, the recording said.

The video also shows the man moaning on the ground. Officers can be seen using stun guns when Rodriguez did not immediately respond to orders, including orders to lie on his stomach.

“I just didn’t want to have to beat the boy to death,” one of the officers is heard to say.

A federal wrongful death lawsuit alleged that one of the officers called Rodriguez a “sweaty little pig.”

The complaint, filed on May 11, says that “the officers did not provide assistance and continued to pin Fernando to the ground” for nearly four minutes after he became “completely unresponsive”.

He says Rodriguez was “non-combative” throughout the confrontation and alleged the defendants raped its constitutional rights to due process and to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The costume names the officers, the town of Hampton and the County of Henry. Pate and his partner Jess B. Johnson filed the lawsuit in Atlanta US District Court on behalf of Rodriguez’s parents, Octavio Rodriguez Cira and Fabiola Merlos Martinez, and his brother Octavio Rodriguez.

The county did not respond to a request for comment regarding the litigation. The town of Hampton reached a settlement with the plaintiffs on July 19, Cohilas said.

Pat said the settlement amount was $ 3 million.

Rodriguez’s death has been investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Antoine Cusumano contributed.