ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News obtained police body camera video that shows officers pulling a disabled man out of his car so it can be repossessed.
Willie Jones had fallen on hard times before police pulled him out of his car, causing him even more problems. “It seems like a nightmare. It seems like a dream,” Jones said.
The 69-year-old had suffered a stroke that caused some paralysis on his left side. He was going through a divorce. He had lost his job and was living in his car with his five pet turtles.
“It was home. It was just a temporary thing I had to go through until I could do better,” Jones said.
But Jones said a repo man woke him up in the middle of the night in a parking lot in Southwest Atlanta in October 2017.
He asked for time to gather his medicine, important papers, clothes and turtles, but instead the repo man called police.
Officers repeatedly asked him to get out of his car. At one point a sergeant is heard saying on the video, “OK, if you’re not going to come on out, we gonna have to pull you out.”
Jones told the officers he needed to get his things and told them about his limp arm and leg brace. After more failed attempts to get him out, an officer is heard on body camera video saying, “If that’s the case, we’re going to give him some Georgia power.”
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Officers finally pulled Jones out of his car. Jones can be heard on the body camera video crying out in pain and saying the officers are hurting his arm. The video also shows Jones land on the parking lot.
“The police department showed up, yanked me out of the car, threw me to the ground, broke my arm, and I was never charged with nothing,” Jones said.
Afterward, the sergeant is heard on video telling a repo worker, “In the future, I believe when you do have an encounter like that it becomes a civil matter. It doesn’t become an officer against the guy that’s trying to keep the car.”
That isn’t the only time Atlanta police have gotten involved in a civil matter. Corlisia Sims told us she has been depressed and she doesn’t feel comfortable anymore after Atlanta police intervened in a property line dispute she had with a neighbor.
The neighbor called police after Sims said she refused to let surveyors on her property in August 2017.
Ms. Sims’ neighbor said he called the police because she was trespassing on his property, which he said is supported by the survey. Sims said a sergeant told her, “'It’s going to be done today, one way or another,' and I took that as a threat.” Sims took photographs of two surveyors on her property.
Both Sims and Jones filed complaints with Atlanta police. At first, police determined there wasn’t enough information to prove or disprove the allegations in Sims’ case. But she appealed, and her complaint was sustained. The sergeant received an oral reprimand.
In Jones’ case, Atlanta police ruled the unnecessary force complaint not sustained. But the officers received written or oral reprimands for getting involved in civil actions.
“Why they just got an oral reprimand, a little shake of the finger, instead of something more severe, what kind of message does it send when you have in both instances supervisors that are telling the police to violate the law,” said attorney Mark Bullman, who represents Jones and Sims.
Atlanta police sent Channel 2 Action News the following statement:
“Our officers are often asked to intervene in civil matters, but we have clear policies that prohibit it. In these two cases, officers were investigated and found in violation of those policies by our Office of Professional Standards. All of the officers received either an oral or written reprimand.”
No one has paid Jones’ more than $42,000 in medical bills yet. The police investigation stated there is no clear indication his arm was broken during the incident. Both Jones and Sims are considering taking legal action against the City of Atlanta.
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