Arrest warrants were issued Monday for five Georgia police officers indicted on murder charges for the 2019 killing of a 24-year-old man. Fernando Rodriguez died of asphyxiation after being placed in a prone position while he was handcuffed and held down, allegedly in violation of state law.
The indictment accuses Henry County Police Department officers Robert Butera and Quinton Phillips and former Hampton Police Department officers Mason Lewis, Marcus Stroud and Gregory Bowlden in Rodriguez’s death on September 20, 2019, following contact with police outside a concert at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The officers turned themselves in Monday and each posted $100,000 bond on Tuesday.
The indictment, handed down by a Henry County grand jury Friday night, charges all five officers with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault and violation of oath of office.
A spokeswoman for the Henry County District Attorney’s Office said arrest warrants for the five officers were issued Monday morning.
The five-page indictment says that Rodriguez died of asphyxiation. Body-camera footage shows him walking down a street fully naked, away from the officers when they tased him more than a dozen times.
The indictment accuses the officers of contributing to Rodriguez’s death by stretching him out “on the ground in a prone position, while he was handcuffed and shackled, holding him down and applying pressure to his body, contrary” to state laws.
“Rodriguez, who lived in the Atlanta area, was leaving the Imagine Music Festival at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton when officers encountered him,” the district attorney’s office said in a press release. “In addition to holding his naked body down on the ground, the officers struck Rodriguez more than a dozen times with their Tasers.”
In an interview with CNN on Monday, the Rodriguez family attorney called video of the incident “revolting.”
“This is a clear civil rights violation, and apparently the DA agrees,” family attorney Page Pate said.
The city of Hampton has already settled a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit, according to Pate. The city did not respond to requests for comment.
“They paid the family $3 million as soon as they saw the complaint,” Pate said, adding that he anticipates Henry County to settle a similar suit.
Scott Key, the attorney for former officer Mason Lewis, told CNN in an interview on Tuesday, “we think malice murder is an overreach. He was doing his job.”
“He’s devastated,” Key said about his client’s reaction to the indictment. “But at the same time, he’s looking forward to his day in court. We look forward to conducting our own investigation in the case and seeing the process until the end.”
Key told CNN that since the incident, Lewis is no longer employed in law enforcement. CNN has not been able to reach attorneys for other officers.
“The family is very pleased [with the indictment]” Page told CNN. “They’ve been waiting patiently for justice. We know this is long process, but this is a good start.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted the probe into Rodriguez’s death, according to the DA office’s press release.