Four days after the release of a video that appears to show Dekalb County Sheriff’s deputies physically and verbally assaulting an Ellenwood family inside their home, the man who recorded the video says his family is still seeking justice.
The video shows police violently banging on the door of what the residents say is the wrong house and then berating the occupants, including threatening to “tase the sh*t out of” them, once they are let inside. The family says they were also physically assaulted during the incident.
Spokesmen from the sheriff’s department have disputed the claims of physical violence and maintained that they had a valid warrant for the arrest of one of the home’s occupants. Dekalb County Sheriff Tom Brown did say that the “verbal lashing” given to the family by deputies was uncalled-for.
“Their comments were inappropriate,” Brown told the Daily World. “It set Black people back 45 years. It just simply is not the standard that I expect from any of my deputies in the Dekalb County Sheriff’s Office. I’m going to have to retrain and where appropriate give appropriate discipline.”
But Donovan Hall, the man behind the camera during the incident that took place on July 26, says that nothing has been done to make the family feel like the law is on their side. In fact, Hall told the Daily World he attempted to file an Internal Affairs complaint after the episode but has not yet received a response.
“No one has returned any of our messages, no one has returned any of our calls, nothing,” said Hall. “We have received no communication from the police or the sheriff’s department since this has happened.”
The sheriff’s department released a statement Friday announcing that the incident along with the deputies involved would be the subject of an investigation. Spokesman Kyle Jones said in the statement that the department is very close to completing the investigation, which includes a review of the standard operating procedures under which the arrest warrant in question was executed.
Brown added that since the video was released his office has gathered a wealth of new information, including listening to the 911 dispatch call made from the house and police radio correspondence between officers.
Brown said the new information shows that his deputies were clearly at the right house and he believes that aside from the vulgar language, they acted properly.
“They are still on duty,” Brown said, “and based on what I know at this particular point I don’t see any reason to remove them from duty.”
He insisted that claims made by Hall and members of his family that deputies body slammed him, stood on his head and hit him in the face with the butt of a gun are all untrue.
“At no time was anybody in that house physically abused,” Brown said.
The event has moved Hall to push for action against the deputies, but he said that this was not the first time his family has had a negative experience with DeKalb County officers.
Two years ago, Hall said, police accused them of squatting at the home. After Hall said his mother produced documentation proving ownership of the house, things got even worse.
“They stole my mother’s ID and left for three hours,” he said. “My mom called the police department asking to speak to the sergeant or someone to come out to talk to her. A few hours later a lieutenant came out an apologized for everything that happened.”
Hall said a department spokesperson told him there were concerns that members of the family were not legal citizens, but those were eventually allayed. He said an investigation into the behavior of the two officers involved was opened, but two years later it has still not been solved.
“I believe it definitely fueled what happened [that night],” he said. “Our life has been hell since the day that happened.”
The July 26 incident, which was caught on video and has gotten nearly 600,000 views so far, stemmed from a $1,000 civil arrest order for Hall’s mother, Natania Griffin. Hall says that the original amount was paid, but additional fees were added with no explanation. The fee was not paid, which led to a warrant being issued for Griffin’s arrest and the subsequent action.
According to Hall, others harassed by the sheriff’s department have begun reaching out to him and his family since the video went viral.
“Since this has been getting so much attention people have been reaching out to us left and right,” he said. “People have been telling us about stories that they have of police brutality. We realize that this is not only our story and we need to bring this to the attention of national news so this can stop.”
Brown said that the department will complete its investigation no later than Tuesday and vowed to take “appropriate corrective actions when the facts justify them.” He said he has not spoken with Hall or his family and did not say that such a conversation would be a part of the investigation.