HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — Police and elected officials in Henry County tried to cover up the use of excessive force during the arrest of a former NFL player late last year, his lawyers said Monday.
Henry County police arrested Desmond Marrow on Dec. 2 while responding to reports of a road rage situation.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in Henry County State Court, Marrow's lawyers said the officers violated his rights and that police and elected officials worked together on a cover-up.
After video of the arrest circulated widely online in April, lawyers for Marrow called for the officers involved to be fired and for criminal charges filed against Marrow to be dropped.
In the one-minute video clip, officers can be seen forcefully taking a handcuffed Marrow to the ground by sweeping his legs out from under him as he yells, "I'm not even fighting back."
When he's on the ground, an officer puts his hand on Marrow's throat for several seconds and Marrow says, "I can't breathe," while another officer tells him to settle down.
Marrow told Channel 2 Action News he was praying.
“You really don’t know if you’re going to die or if you’re going to live, because when you’re breathing like that and your air’s getting short, and you can look in a man’s eyes and just tell he doesn’t have your best interest, you don’t know what’s going to end," Marrow said.
Police said at the time that the internal affairs unit had done an initial use of force review but that Chief Mark Amerman had ordered an internal affairs investigation and placed an officer on administrative duty.
Two weeks later, Amerman announced the internal affairs investigation had found that Officer David Rose used unnecessary force and also was recorded on his in-car video camera system saying that he had choked Marrow and that he wasn't going to include that information in his report.
Rose was fired.
The same day, Henry County District Attorney Darius Pattillo said no felony charges would be brought against Marrow and that the misdemeanor charges would be turned over to the county solicitor general for review.
Marrow's lawyers applauded Amerman's swift action and the dropping of the charges.
"We're happy that this chief stepped forward and is holding the officer who choked Desmond accountable and getting him off the force," attorney L. Chris Stewart said at the time.
Things changed on Monday.
In reviewing documents produced in response to an open records request, Marrow's attorneys discovered that a full internal affairs investigation had already been conducted in December, days after the arrest.
“People aren’t going to stand for this kind of corruption,” Stewart said.
Then-Maj. Mike Ireland indicated in a report dated Dec. 7 that he reviewed Rose's in-car video, a second video shot by a citizen, 911 calls, witness statements and the officers' reports.
Ireland, who has since been promoted to deputy chief, found that the officers complied with policy.
The placement of Rose's hand on Marrow's neck "does not appear to be intentional," the report provided to reporters by Marrow's attorneys says.
In a second internal affairs report dated May 4, Smith, who also heads the department's internal affairs unit, indicates that Rose can be heard on dashcam video telling Donaldson, "I'm not gonna write it down but hell yeah, I choked that (expletive)."
“This shows you they can make up false reports, ignore witnesses that were there,” Stewart said.
Rose didn't deny saying that but said he didn't remember and that it must have been made "in the bravado of the situation," the report says.
Donaldson told Smith his attention was divided and that if Rose said that, "It went in one ear and out the other."
The police and elected officials named in the lawsuit were all "fully aware of the false report created by Defendant Ireland and the dash cam audio which captured Defendants Rose and Donaldson planning to hide their use of excessive force," the lawsuit says.
"Just do the right thing. Right is right, and wrong is wrong," Marrow said.
The solicitor added two new misdemeanor charges after Marrow's attorney said they were going public with the internal reports. Stewart called it retaliation.
Marrow played football at the University of Toledo in Ohio but wasn't drafted out of college.
He signed a contract in 2012 with the Houston Texans but was cut during the preseason. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked him up, but he didn't make the team.
Our investigative partners at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and AJC.com contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.
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