Five Georgia police officers have been indicted on murder charges in connection to the death of a 24-year-old man who attended the Imagine Music Festival in 2019.
Fernando Rodriguez was naked and walking on a road after attending the Imagine Music Festival near the Atlanta Motor Speedway on September 20th, 2019, when the officers confronted him, used a stun gun, and then tackled him, according to NBC News. Rodriguez later passed away at a hospital, and a state medical examiner ruled his death homicide by asphyxiation.
In police body cam footage, one officer is seen shooting Rodriguez in the back with a stun gun, and several other officers used their stun guns after Rodriguez fell to the ground, but did not immediately respond to their commands. “I just didn’t want to have to beat the boy to death,” one of the officers is heard saying. Another threatened to kick Rodriguez in his teeth, and called him a “sweaty little hog.”
A representative for Rodriguez’s family said the man was in need of medical attention when officers confronted him. According to a civil lawsuit filed by the family, “officers failed to render aid and continued to pin Fernando to the ground” for nearly four minutes after he became “totally unresponsive.” They also said Rodriguez was “noncombative” throughout the confrontation, and alleged the officers violated his constitutional rights to due process.
Last week, a grand jury returned an indictment for each of the five officers: Henry County police officers Robert Butera and Quinton Phillips, and Hampton police officers Marcus Stroud, Gregory Bowlden and Mason Lewis. Each officer is charged with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, and one count of violation of oath office.
The Henry County District Attorney’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.”