A group of activists are demanding that the Atlanta Police become more transparent with their investigation into the death of 26-year-old Atlanta resident Alexia Christian.
Outside APD's headquarters this afternoon, about a dozen activists called for police to release surveillance footage available from an officer-involved shooting that led to Christian's death. They also urged APD to allow an independent investigator handle an internal probe into conduct of two of its police officers.
Around 5 p.m. on April 30, APD Chief George Turner said, Christian was detained and placed in handcuffs near Underground Atlanta for allegedly stealing a pickup truck. After being placed in the back of a squad car, she managed to get one hand free from her restraints and subsequently shot a pistol three times at Officers Jeffery Cook and Omar Thyme. Both officers, who were sitting in the same car's front seat and narrowly escaped injury, fired back a total of 10 bullets at Christian. The female suspect was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital where she later died.
State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, today demanded the immediate release of footage from the front dashboard camera of the squad car, any obtained cell-phone footage, and at least two surveillance cameras in the surrounding area. Having that footage, Fort said, would provide greater clarity about what happened in the moments leading up to Christian's death.
"The fact of the matter is, in this post-Ferguson era, that the public demands transparency and openness," Fort told reporters. "That's not what we're getting in this instance. Atlanta has its own legacy of police misconduct going back a long time including the murder of Kathryn Johnston in 2006. That video [in the Christian shooting] is the property of the public."
According to Miracle Jones, a representative speaking on behalf of Rise Up Georgia, APD's release of the video tapes would help Christian's family find closure and show Atlantans that the police department prioritizes transparency. Since Christian won't be charged with a crime, Jones said APD investigators have no good reason to withhold the tapes in their possession.
"Alexia Christian was a mother, a daughter, a sister," Jones said. "Her family and friends deserve to know how she died. A narrative has been released about her death. So releasing the tapes will not compromise anything."
Rev. Joe Beasley, southeast director of the Rainbow Push Coalition, said he and other local religious leaders have asked APD to hand over Christian's case to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Beasley, who said he has spoken with APD Chief George Turner about the shooting, has not heard back from the police chief after being invited to a media press conference last week.
"It's hard to investigate yourself," Beasley said. "But if there's nothing to hide, why not ask the GBI to come in and do the investigation. I suspect Atlanta has as many capabilities as GBI, maybe more. But nonetheless, if there's nothing here, it seems that the chief would be happy to put the onus on someone else."
At a media briefing last week, Turner said the department would not release the footage from the squad car while investigators look into the case. Cook and Thyme are currently on routine administrative leave and face an internal investigation about whether they violated protocol in failing to properly search Christian.
APD spokesman Sgt. Gregory Lyon today tells CL no additional information will be released regarding either the ongoing criminal or internal investigation at this time. He says APD's investigation currently includes the department's homicide unit and Office of Professional Standards, along with the Fulton County District Attorney's Office. Lyon declined to elaborate on why APD would not ask the GBI to conduct a third-party investigation.
"This is our standard protocol with officer involved shootings," Lyon says. "We have a specialized unit of investigators that handle officer involved shootings such as the one that occurred on Thursday."