ATLANTA — UPDATE: A recently-retired Atlanta police officer has been found guilty in the beating of a man accused of stealing a tomato at Walmart.
A jury is now deliberating in the case of a recently-retired Atlanta police officer who beat a man falsely accused of stealing a tomato in Walmart.
Trevor King, 49, is facing a two-count federal indictment tied to willfully using unreasonable force and falsifying a police report in the October 2014 incident that broke Tyrone Carnegay’s leg. At the time, King was an Atlanta Police Department sergeant working an off-duty security job at a Southwest Atlanta Walmart.
The FBI learned about the case through a 2016 report by Channel 2 Action News that included exclusive video of the beating.
In seven seconds you see King beat Carnegay with a baton. Then he ends up pulling a receipt for the tomato out of the man’s pocket.
“He’s giving me a verbal command as he’s grabbing me and beating me at the same time, saying get on the ground, get on the ground, get on the ground,” Carnegay told Channel 2’ s Craig Lucie in 2016.
Carnegay suffered a broken leg, with bones sticking out of his skin, and a ruptured artery, a Grady hospital physician testified this week.
“Well I was chained to the bed at Grady because he said I had assaulted him …. obstructed him from doing his job,” Carnegay said. “Then I went to jail for three days.”
Those charges were soon dropped, leading the man to file a civil suit against King, APD and the Walmart loss prevention officer.
King retired from APD in January of this year, about a month after the initial federal indictment was filed.
In July, a mistrial was called because of King’s testimony admitting to telling different stories in two police reports, prosecutors said.
That admission led to a superseding indictment that landed everyone back in court this week.
In addition to the unreasonable force allegation, the new indictment includes a count describing intent to lie about the incident in a second police report King filled out to justify charges against Carnegay. It reads as follows:
“Specifically, Defendant KING wrote an official offense report documenting an encounter with T.C. in which Defendant KING falsely wrote that: (1) he told T.C . to get on the ground using a loud verbal command but T.C. continued to push past Defendant KING and ignored his commands; and (2) T.C. reached for the left side of Defendant KING's gun belt before Defendant KING struck T.C. on his right leg with a baton. In truth, however, as Defendant KING then well knew: (1) T.C. did not continue to push past Defendant KING and ignore Defendant KING's verbal commands; and (2) T.C. did not reach for Defendant KING's gun belt before Defendant KING delivered the first two baton strikes to T.C.'s leg.”
King’s account is disputed in video evidence, but it’s his intent to provide a false report that jurors take up this week.
A second mistrial was nearly called on Wednesday after King mentioned the first trial during testimony.
“Which was big no-no,” said Channel 2 legal analyst Esther Panitch. “The judge excused the jury, (and) really kind of lashed out at Sergeant King. The government really didn’t ask for a mistrial, although they could have.”
King testified this week that he was alerted to take a look at surveillance video by a loss prevention officer named Ariana Boyd. King said he observed Carnegay weigh the tomato on the scale and place it in his bag.
He then went to the front of the door, to prepare to stop Carnegay.
What happened from there is where testimony, police reports and surveillance video differ.
King says he pulled his baton out because he anticipated trouble from Carnegay based on the man’s interaction with Boyd as they walked toward the door.
Carnegay has testified he didn’t know what the two wanted with him. He’d returned to the store to weigh the tomato he’d just bought because he believed he’d been overcharged. Surveillance shows him placing the weighed tomato back in a Walmart bag that he stuffs in a satchel before wandering to the back of the store, then walking past the registers to the entrance. Carnegay testified he was heading to the Customer Service desk to dispute the charge. That desk is located at the front of the store.
Boyd, who is a codefendant in the civil suit, was not called by either the government or the defense, which led to finger-pointing and accusations of suppressing evidence by both sides during closing arguments.
Carnegay said he asked “What’s up Chief?” to King when he was stopped at the door. When King asked him where he was going, Carnegay stated, “I’m going home.”
King claims Boyd was asked repeatedly to head to the loss prevention office, but refused to comply with the investigation, and said “Do what you’ve gotta do,” to the officer, something the government called a lie that made no sense given Carnegay’s demeanor.
That’s when King went on to grab Carnegay’s shoulder.
The video shows King beginning to repeatedly strike Carnegay with his baton.
King also testified that he used the baton versus an oil-based spray as a compliance tool because he didn’t want the spray to affect other customers.
Once Carnegay was in handcuffs, King pulled the receipt out of Carnegay’s pocket.
King testified his use of force was in line with his Atlanta Police training, while a training officer called it excessive in testimony given earlier in the week.
HISTORY OF LYING IN INCIDENT REPORTS
Prosecutors presented two false incident reports filed by King in his 26-year career with APD. King was disciplined in both cases.
In one 2001 case, he fabricated a hit-and-run accident at the Atlanta airport to justify damage he’d caused to his police car. Airport employees who witnessed the accident were the key to proving the story false.
In 2012, King claimed someone had forged his signature on a presigned voucher for a drug-case witness. An Office of Professional Standards investigation concluded that King was guilty of lying.
Current APD officers involved in the investigation were called to the stand this week to confirm the events.
While the OPS report resulted in a guilty charge for King, one officer testified that then-Police Chief George Turner downgraded the charges and disciplinary action. Because of this King avoided being fired.
Termination is the automatic penalty at APD when an officer is found guilty of “untruthfulness."
King’s defense argued that neither incident was relevant to the Walmart beating case. The government argued it lays a foundation to prove a pattern of lies and cover-ups, which related to King’s second count of the current indictment.
AWAITING A VERDICT
Jurors could reach a verdict as early as Friday.
As he awaited the verdict, King sat outside the courtroom with his head in his hands. He has been accompanied by two other family members.
In closing, the defense and government accused one another of suppressing evidence and selecting certain witnesses to finesse their side of the case.
“I’m going to caution you, don’t get caught up in the lie,” defense attorney Odis Williams who told jurors the government was trying to depict a "mad dog, rogue cop."
“He’s (King) paid to secure the people and the product and Mr. Carnegay is obstructing the investigation, “he said.
“They want to win rather than present justice and this is the Justice Department,” defense attorney Keith Adams told jurors. “This ain’t a game. This is this man’s life.”
Prosecutors told jurors they had a wealth of evidence that overwhelmingly proved intent to cover up an excessive, unreasonable beating.
“You have to decide who to believe,” said U.S. Attorney Brent Gray “Using your good common sense, who can I trust? Who can I believe?’
“Believe it or not, I feel bad for him,” Gray continued. “I really do. “
“There are only two things a police officer has to do…tell the truth and respect the Constitution,” Gray said.
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