Roderick Walker and Juanita Davis met about a year ago, and their four-month-old son is the tie that binds their modern blended family. When Davis, 24, saw her boyfriend being punched and beaten by Clayton County deputies in Georgia on Friday, September 11, all she could do was scream.
“I had to just think about my children. Yes, I wanted to intervene. Do I care about going to jail trying to help someone I love, no I don’t, but I have a five-year-old and a four-month-old that I knew I had to be home with,” says Davis in an interview with BET.com. “It’s bad enough that their dad had to go, but there’s no reason that their mom had to go too. I did my part recording and I have my evidence.”
A video of the incident has since gone viral showing the excessive force Walker, who is Black, received at the hands of two sheriff deputies, who are both white. Davis, who recorded the incident, says that she and Walker were in a ride-share vehicle when the deputies stopped the car for a traffic violation. Davis says that the deputies walked up to the vehicle and immediately asked Walker for his identification. In turn, Walker questioned why they were being pulled over and why his ID was needed since he wasn’t the one driving the vehicle. Walker was asked to get out of the car. The other officer patted him down and that’s when Davis says the beating ensued.
Davis is trying to hold it together for her children, but admits that her five-year old son is now traumatized after witnessing first hand the police’s aggressive force against the man he considers to be his stepfather.
“He can’t sleep. He wakes me up because he’s having bad dreams, “ says Davis of her son. “He had his first day of class today and he was really stressed out about going to school. On top of that, he keeps asking me when is Roderick coming home. I miss him and why did this happen to him. He’s five so he doesn’t understand the bigger picture but he knows that what was done and what he saw was not right at all.”
While Davis tries to reassure both of her sons, her boyfriend continues to sit in the Clayton County Jail. Davis says she has spoken to Walker and that the man she knows to be loving and caring is now an emotional wreck. Walker was arrested on suspicion of obstructing officers and battery, according to the sheriff’s office, he remains in jail on probabtion violation.
Shean Williams of The Cochran Firm - Atlanta is representing Walker and says the charges against the 26-year-old father, brother and son are bogus. Walker apparently lost consciousness at least twice while police pummeled his face, head and body. Williams contends that his client has received minimal medical treatment while in jail.
“He also went unconscious in the deputy's vehicle. He needs a full neurological workup because we believe he has suffered some level of brain injury,” Williams told BET.com. “He has complained of bleeding out of his mouth as well as his nose so he has issues that we believe need to be addressed medically. Our desire to get him out of jail is not only because of the fact that we believe these charges are frivolous and illegal, but also because we are concerned about his safety and his health and we need to get him a full workup.”
One of the two Georgia sheriff’s deputies seen participating in the beating while Walker cried out, "I can't breathe," has since been terminated for use of excessive force but the other reportedly remains on the job. A criminal investigation of the incident will be turned over to the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office. Sheriff Victor Hill has also yet to release the names of any of the officers involved, including those that stood by and watched the assault. Williams says this is proof that Sheriff Hill is doing more to protect his deputies than the people who they were hired to serve.
“We want all the charges against Mr. Walker dismissed because they are based upon frivolous and unlawful search and seizure,” says Williams of their demands. “The battery that he's been charged with should have been charged against the officers involved, not him. We also want these officers terminated and not just one of them, but all of them who violated their oath of office and their duty to protect Mr. Walker's constitutional rights. We want criminal charges brought against them and we want the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation not only of this incident, but other incidents that we have come to learn that are similar to what happens to Mr. Walker.”
Williams says that his office has received numerous calls about other incidents of abuse of excessive use of force by the same deputies involved in this incident as well as others against the mostly Black residents of Clayton County. He contends that there are also several federal lawsuits pending because of this pattern and practice condoned by Sheriff Hill and the deputies within his department to “violate people’s civil rights not only outside of the jail, but inside as well.”
As for now, Williams is trying to work with the D.A.’s office to get the charges against Walker dismissed. If that doesn’t work, he will attempt to convince a judge to let Walker out on bond and then once he’s released, they will deal with whatever other issues Walker has concerning his probation.
“The bottom line is what happened to Roderick has been happening to people in that community for years under Sheriff Hill’s watch and it must stop,” Williams said.
As for Davis, she remains steady, bolstered by her family, the Georgia NAACP, and several local Black Lives Matter groups who have reached out to lend their support.
“I want justice for my boyfriend,” says Davis. “He deserves that because like I said, he did nothing wrong. I want the officers who were involved arrested and I want him home so he can get the right medical attention that he needs.”
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Photo: Courtesy Shean Williams