Five law enforcement officers in Georgia have been indicted on murder charges in the 2019 death of Fernando Rodriguez following Imagine Music Festival in Hampton, GA.
Rodriguez, 24, was found by five officers walking naked down a road after attending the EDM festival on September 20th, 2019 at Hampton’s Atlanta Motor Speedway. Per collected accounts from body-camera footage and the Henry County District Attorney’s office, the officers reportedly tased Rodriguez more than a dozen times and piled on top of him when he did not immediately comply with their directions. When he died at an area hospital several days later, a state medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by asphyxiation.
On Friday, after two days of testimony, a Henry County grand jury indicted each of the five officers with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, and one citation for violation of oath of office, per the District Attorney’s office. Per NBC News, the DA’s office said the officers violated their oath “by stretching Rodriguez out on the ground in a prone position while he was handcuffed and shackled, holding him down and applying pressure to his body.”
Body-camera footage of the incident shows an officer aiming a taser at Rodriguez’s back as he initially walked away from the officers. An officer can be heard threatening to kick him in the teeth while he is on the ground groaning in apparent pain, and another clip shows officers using tasers on Rodriguez while he was already on the ground when he did not immediately respond to orders to lie down on his stomach. “I just didn’t want to have to beat the boy to death,” one of the officers can be heard saying in the footage.
The officers were identified as Robert Butera and Quinton Phillips on the Henry County Police Department and Marcus Stroud, Gregory Bowlden and Mason Lewis on the Hampton Police Department.
Per NBC News, “Stroud resigned from the department Oct. 16, 2019, and Bowlden and Lewis resigned this year on Aug. 5, Hampton City Manager Alex Cohilas said. The status of the county officers was not clear. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in May that they were still employed as police. … The indicted officers could not be reached through law enforcement organizations, and their departments did not immediately respond to request for comment.” Arrest warrants for the officers were expected to be issued next week.
Watch a local news package on the indictments below featuring body-camera footage from the incident [Note: Footage may be disturbing to some viewers]:
Officers Indicted On Murder Charges In Death Of Music Festival Attendee
The criminal charges against the five officers follows previous civil action in connection with Rodriguez’s death. A federal case against the city filed by Page A. Pate, an attorney for the victim’s family ,alleged that “officers failed to render aid and continued to pin Fernando to the ground” for nearly four minutes after he became “totally unresponsive.” It also says that Rodriguez was “noncombative” during the altercation and that one of the officers could be heard calling him a “sweaty little hog.” The wrongful death suit was settled out of court in July for a reported $3 million.
[H/T NBC News]