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|Police falsely imprisoned Atlanta Eagle bar patrons, employees in raid, rules citizen review board|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|September 10, 2010 10:53|
The Atlanta Eagle patrons and employees were falsely imprisoned and had their civil rights violated when the gay bar was raided a year ago by the Atlanta Police Department, according to the Atlanta Citizen Review Board.
The ruling was made during the CRB’s meeting Thursday. The board also ruled that while it was likely abusive language, including racist epithets and anti-gay slurs, was used by the 24 officers during the raid, there was no way to prove exactly who said what. The 24 officers all denied using abusive language, according to a CRB investigator, despite the witnesses and the patrons in the bar who all said the abusive language was used.
Last month, the CRB also discussed the use of abusive language during the police raid. Epithets allegedly heard included “Shut the F up,” and “Raiding a gay bar is fun, we should do it every week.” Those conducting the raid were members of APD's Vice Squad and its notorious Red Dog Unit.
Patrons and employees of the bar were forced to lie down on the floor and were searched for contraband and had their ID cards checked for possible warrants during the raid.
The CRB investigator explained that the rationale several of the officers stated for the searches of the patrons is that while they were conducting an undercover investigation of alleged illicit activity in the bar, they entered the bar with their guns and were not searched and so they deemed it possible other people entering the bar might have guns.
For the finding of false imprisonment, the board can only recommend a written reprimand or up to a 3-day suspension of officers. That is not nearly harsh enough punishment, said Joy Morrissey, chair of the board. The other board members agreed.
So the board called for its staff to conduct an in-depth investigation into what happened during the controversial Atlanta Eagle raid and determine what supervisors were involved, including those who signed off on the raid. The board also wants the CRB staff to investigate the standard operating procedures of the APD and if they were followed during the raid. The study is expected to be completed in November. The board will make recommendations for discipline of the officers after the study is completed.
Johnnie Curran, who was in the bar the night it was raided and attended the CRB hearing Thursday, said he felt some vindication after the board’s ruling. But the wait for some kind of justice is wearing on him, he admitted.
“I feel like it’s taken over my life,” he said.
Geoff Calhoun, another patron of the bar, was also pleased with the CRB’s findings. And while the CRB talked about the renowned “blue wall” within police departments that would likely make it difficult for an officer to speak out against another officer as part of the Atlanta Eagle investigation, Calhoun said he is confident justice can be found.
“We have a wall, too,” he said.
Dan Grossman, attorney for the numerous Atlanta Eagle patrons and employees who are suing the APD and City of Atlanta in federal court, said the CRB’s finding that the police violated the civil rights — specifically their Fourth Amendment rights — of those in the bar that night was obvious.
“Everyone seems to know this except the APD,” he said.
The CRB hearing Thursday completes the complaints filed by Atlanta Eagle patrons and employees. The first case was discussed in June.
The board was formed to provide community oversight of the APD after the killing of Kathryn Johnston in a botched drug raid; it can only make recommendations to Turner. In the past, Turner has not approved any of recommendations from the board that found an officer of wrongdoing.
The officers named involved in the Atlanta Eagle raid were: Sgt. John Brock, Sgt. Willie Adams III, Sgt. Kelley Collier, Officer Melonie Mague, Officer Robert Goodwin, Officer Stallone Davis, Investigator Bennie Bridges, Officer Jeremy Edwards, Officer Dimitri Jaques, Officer Dione Meredith, Officer James Menzoian, Officer Cayenne Mayes, Officer Christopher Dowd, Officer Craig Condon, Investigator Herman Glass, Investigator Timothy McClain, Officer Brandon Jackson, Officer Marlon Noble, Officer Stephanie Upton, Officer William Porter, Officer William B. Walters, Officer Vincente Marcano, Officer Darnell Perry and Officer Jared Watkins.
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