Three white police officers have been fired and charged after surveillance video caught them physically beating a Black male inmate at the Camden County Jail in Woodbine, Georgia.
Videos that have been released show the officers repeatedly punching and kicking Jarrett Hobbs, 41, while he’s in custody. The incident took place on Sept. 3 and it wasn’t until the videos were made public and sparked outrage in mid November that action was taken.
The three officers, Deputy Ryan Biegel, 24, Deputy Mason Garrick, 23, and corrections officer Braxton Massey, 21, were each charged with battery and violation of their oath of office. CNN reported that they were officially fired before they were arrested.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) announced the charges in a press release on Nov. 22. Sheriff Jim Proctor with Camden County ordered an internal investigation—10 weeks after the attack—after the videos were released to the public and sparked outrage on social media. Hobbs’ attorney, civil rights lawyer Harry Daniels, shared the first of three videos that would spread and go viral.
Five employees of Camden County can be seen in the altercation with Hobbs in all three videos, but the three main aggressors—Biegel, Garrick and Massey who were assaulting Hobbs—were charged and terminated. In a press conference on Nov. 16, Hobbs’ family and attorneys had called for an investigation of the five officers as well as for the Justice Department to investigate the Camden County Sheriff’s Office.
All five officers were originally placed on administrative duty. The other two employees are facing disciplinary actions, according to the GBI’s statement. Four are white, and one is Black.
The attack has been described as graphic and disturbing. In the first video released, Hobbs is seen in his cell wearing a blue gown before an officer walks in and immediately grabs his neck, followed by four others. A violent skirmish ensued between the officers and Hobbs as they eventually began throwing punches to the back of Hobbs’ head and beat him while Hobbs showed no resistance.
Hobbs appeared to have something in his hand that he would later say was a piece of paper, not letting go as the officers were trying to confiscate it. In the second video, Hobbs is dragged out of the cell and the attack by the officers continues as they kick him while he is on the floor.
Hobbs had been on probation from a charge in North Carolina and was picked up while driving through Camden County and charged with speeding, driving on a revoked or suspended license and possession of a controlled substance. He was brought to the Camden County Sheriff’s Office in Woodbine, Georgia.
On Roland Martin Unfiltered, Harris detailed that upon entering the jail, Hobbs began to have a “mental crisis,” and either requested to be put in confinement or on suicide watch, and it was decided he be placed there.
After the assault, Hobbs was charged with nine counts of obstruction. According to Daniels, he never
received medical treatment for his sustained injuries which included a chipped tooth, swelling and one of his locs ripped from his head. He was put in confinement for another two weeks afterward.
Daniels says that in the police report, the officers claim Hobbs assaulted them, which Daniels called “an outright lie.” Once Hobbs’ North Carolina attorney requested the videos where it showed he had not committed any assault, those charges were quickly dropped.
“They never thought this video would come out … . Not only did they beat him, they lied to the Department of Justice. They lied to the courts. They lied to the federal government about what happened to Mr. Hobbs. They never thought this video would come out…they had to produce this video to the government…had no choice,” Daniels said.
The third video is the only one with audio that includes footage of what happened before and after the employees entered the cell. The video, which is nearly 40 minutes, shows what led up to the incident in addition to afterward. It also shows another angle of the scuffle as Hobbs can be heard screeching while being attacked.
Other inmates can be seen peeking out to see what was happening. The two sides went back and forth verbally. At one point, an officer can be heard saying “stop resisting” and instructing him to give them his other hand to which Hobbs responds by saying, “How the f**k, I’m on one leg.”
At another point, an employee tells Hobbs to “let go” of what he is holding on to which Hobbs says that it is a “paper.” Hobbs was eventually placed in a restrained chair.
As the attorneys are also calling on an investigation of the Camden County Office, Daniels made the point that this case was evidence of a clear systemic racism issue within the Camden County Office.
“The way they went in that cell and what they did to Mr. Hobbs, this was not their first time. They knew the video was in there. They didn’t care,” he said.
Daniels mentioned that other attorneys with similar cases of injustice at Camden County have reached out to them since the videos came out. Only a month prior to the incident in August, Bakari Sellers, co-counsel for Hobbs, announced a $25 million lawsuit against Camden County for their killing of 37-year-old Black woman Latoya James.
By driving in Georgia, Hobbs had violated probation and has since been remanded in custody in Guilford County Jail in North Carolina, Daniels told the New York Times.
North Carolina court documents about Hobbs’ probation revocation reveal that Hobbs probation officer FJ Carney provided a recount of what reportedly took place that led to the attack saying that Hobbs had been kicking the cell door and being disruptive.
“Officer Carney testified that Defendant apparently continued this kicking, resulting in the jailers approaching him, giving him verbal commands and putting his hands behind his back. However, Defendant allegedly did not comply and responded to the jailers, saying ‘I ain’t doing sh*t,’” the court document read.
Daniels responded to these claims.
“They didn’t like what Mr. Hobbs said. And even if Mr. Hobbs was kicking the door, once they came in…Mr. Hobbs was compliant,” he said, citing they immediately began an “outright assault.”
The documents further mentions injuries by the officers.
“According to Officer Carney, Defendant resisted the jailers and subsequently punched one deputy in the face while punching another deputy in the side of his head. One deputy sustained a bruised eye and a broken hand as a result of the incident. Officer Carney did note that the report reflected that Defendant was struck in the head by one of the correctional officers, although Officer Carney is unaware of the exact sequence of events,” according to the court documents.
GBI Director Michael Register said in a press conference that they are investigating and did not rule out other charges or arrests saying “if other arrests are necessary, they will be made.”
Daniels said they will be reaching out to the Department of Justice next in this case. He says Hobbs is still struggling from the attack mentally.
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee