On Monday, June 15, 2020, attorneys representing Tyler Griffin filed an excessive force case against the Atlanta Police Department, Officer Donald Vickers, and Officer Matthew Abad. The case arises out of an arrest on April 5, 2019 in which officers tackled Griffin without provocation, breaking his ankle. Officers then forced Griffin to walk on the broken ankle in obvious pain, worsening the injury, while they laughed. The arrest was caught on the body-worn video cameras of several officers.
Griffin is young, male, and African-American. He is represented by Jeb Butler and Matt Kahn of the Butler Law Firm.
“I never wanted to be in this situation,” said Griffin. “I don’t like public attention. But I don’t want this to happen to anybody else, so I’m telling my story.”
Vickers and Abad carried out the arrest. The officers followed Griffin in an unmarked car, without lights and siren off, for some distance before the arrest. They allege that Griffin committed several traffic violations during that time. The Atlanta Police Department has not produced any dash camera video of the alleged traffic infractions.
Griffin knew that he was being followed but did not suspect that his pursuers were police officers, so he pulled into a private drive to see if the car followed. Abad got out of the unmarked patrol car and approached Griffin’s car on foot. With his pistol drawn and pointing at Griffin’s face, he identified himself as a police officer for the first time and ordered Griffin to get out of his car. Griffin got out of his car and stood beside it. Abad grabbed Griffin’s shirt, knocking him off balance, and Griffin shrugged away from his grasp. Then Griffin stood peacefully for several seconds answering Abad’s questions.
Vickers sprinted from some distance away and tackled Griffin to the ground. The fall broke Griffin’s ankle, which would require an emergency surgery, the installation of a long metal plate, and ten bone screws. After the fall, Abad, Vickers, and other officers repeatedly forced Griffin to walk on his broken ankle even though he was in obvious pain while they laughed at him.
Vickers said, “we’re laughing because you fell pretty hard after pushing an officer man, I find that funny man.” Later, as Griffin cried out in paid from being forced to walk on his broken ankle, Vickers added, “you’re such a little girl right now.”
“This was a police officer on a power trip,” said Butler, “with his buddies trying to cover it up afterward.”
“They treated Tyler like an object, not a person,” added Kahn. “This has got to stop.”
Vickers had a history of excessive force violations. In 2010, while off-duty from the Atlanta Police Department, Vickers was arrested for pointing a loaded assault rifle at three African-American males at Underground Atlanta. In 2011, Vickers was written up for having sprayed an African-American arrestee with pepper spray, then kicked him in the back several times while he was facing in the other direction.
“He’s supposed to protect and serve, not act like he’s on WWE,” said Butler.
Butler and Kahn have been unable to learn whether APD fired or otherwise disciplined Vickers and Abad. “We requested this information over six months ago, and they’re required to provide it under Georgia’s Open Records Act,” said Kahn. “But they haven’t disclosed it.”
“I grew up believing that if you cooperated with officers, everything would be okay,” said Griffin. “I still think most police officers are good people. But what happened to me is not acceptable, and this story has to be told.”
“I want change,” Griffin said. “We all want change. Enough is enough. But I want peaceful change. I don’t want the pain that I’ve been going through to be avenged by pain on others. If people protest, I hope they protest peacefully.” Griffin added that the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. was “powerful, but peaceful, nonviolent change. That’s what I want: powerful, but peaceful change.”