A grand jury in Georgia has indicted five law enforcement officers in the 2019 death of a naked man who was pressed on the ground outside of a music festival, a prosecutor says.
The Henry County Grand Jury issued the indictment involving multiple charges, including malice murder, on Friday (Nov. 19) after hearing two days of testimony from witnesses, Henry County Assistant District Attorney Megan Matteucci said.
Warrants for the officers’ arrests will be issued next week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. It was not known if the officers had lawyers who could speak on their behalf.
The indictments stem from an incident in September 2019 outside of Atlanta Motor Speedway as it hosted the Imagine Music Festival, Matteucci said in a news release.
Fernando Rodriguez, 24, died of asphyxiation after he was handcuffed and pressed to the ground while the officers waited for an ambulance, according to Matteucci’s statement.
Henry County police officers Robert Butera and Quinton Phillips, along with Hampton police officers Mason Lewis, Marcus Stroud and Gregory Bowlden, have each been charged with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault, Matteucci said. In addition, each officer has been charged with violating their oath of office.
The incident began when a 911 caller reported a naked man walking outside of the festival, the newspaper previously reported. Body camera footage shows the man, later identified as Rodriguez, walking in the middle of the road, confused and uncooperative but not combative.
The officers yelled at him to stop and when Rodriguez continued walking, one of the officers stunned him with a Taser, the footage showed. Rodriguez then fell to his back in the street. Footage also showed the officers repeatedly tell him to roll over, then stun Rodriguez several more times when he does not comply.
The officers eventually forced him to roll over, and multiple officers knelt on his arms, neck and back to keep him restrained, according to authorities.
In a wrongful death suit filed by Rodriguez’s family, the lawsuit contends the officers should have given the man medical aid instead of continuing to restrain him. Instead, the lawsuit said, they waited for an ambulance to arrive.
Rodriguez’s family ultimately accepted a $3 million settlement from the Hampton Police Department. The family is still pursuing legal action against the Henry County Police Department, the newspaper reported.
Rodriguez died in a hospital two days after the incident. His death was ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.