COLUMBUS, Georgia (WRBL) – The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested a Columbus police officer after allegations of excessive use of force.
The GBI arrested Officer Clayton Watkins, 35, on Friday and charged him with battery and violating the oath of office following an investigation.
In June, CPD asked the GBI to investigate allegations against Watkins stemming from the October 2019 arrest of 43-year-old Donnell Russell.
According to GBI officials, during the investigation it was determined that on October 18, 2019, Watkins and a trainee officer initiated a stop of Russell and another individual who were walking in the middle of the road on Wade Street. in Columbus. Pedestrians walking on the road are a violation of a City of Columbus ordinance. During the stop, Russell refused to comply when Watkins repeatedly told him to open his left hand which appeared to be concealing an object.
“Open your hand! Open it up! Yelled Officer Watkins. “Tell them we have one that resists,” Watkins shouts at the intern. “I have nothing,” Russell yells as he is pinned to the ground.
Watkins then handcuffed Russell and Russell continued to refuse to open his hand.
According to GBI officials, body camera footage shows Watkins then punched Russell several times to the side, pointing a Taser at him, throwing him to the ground and hitting him again. Russell was determined to be hiding a small amount of suspected marijuana in his hand.
Watkins arrested Russell and charged him with obstructing an officer and violating a city ordinance. He filed a complaint against the Columbus Police Department for excessive force in October 2019.
The leaked body camera video was posted to Facebook by community activist Gadget Jackson.
“My first reason I posted the video was basically. I felt there was a need for someone to say something and stand up for something. I would like someone to defend me on some level when it comes to police brutality and police injustice here in town and the police abusing their power, ”Jackson told News 3.
The post gained thousands of shares and caught the attention of community activist Justin Allen who also shared it.
“I honestly thought for a while that Columbus didn’t really have a problem with the police department and found out we did. I wanted people to know that this is happening here and that there are people watching. If that sort of thing has happened, not even that, but any kind of abuse by those who have sworn to protect us, we need to know it, let the general public know, ”Allen said.
The now-viral video was shown to Mayor Skip Henderson, who called Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren and the city attorney. “As soon as my office heard about the tape, it was the first time I saw them, I went ahead and met the city attorney as well as the chief of police and immediately in the 24 hours, we asked the chief to forward it to the GBI. “
The GBI opened the investigation on June 4, a day after the video was released on social media.
Three months later, Watkins was arrested and charged with assault and battery and violating the oath of office.
“I’m disappointed with the city that it took this Facebook post for us to take action. He’s supposed to be shut down, so no kudos for your work, ”Allen says.
Jackson echoes those same thoughts. “I really couldn’t sit on it. I didn’t feel like it was something I could just see and not do something big. So I did it in the best possible way by putting it out there. “
The GBI investigation is closed. GBI officials said the case would now be referred to the Chattahoochee Judicial District Attorney’s Office for the Watkins prosecution.