A Georgia grand jury indicted six deputies on murder charges in connection to the 2018 death of an inmate at the Fulton County jail.
The three current and three former deputy sheriffs from the jail’s 2018 Direct Action Response Team where indicted on five charges on Tuesday including felony murder, aggravated assault, battery and violation of oath of office.
The officers named in the criminal case are Arron Cook, Guito DeLa Cruz, Omar Jackson, Jason Roache, Kenesia Strowder and William Whitaker.
Antonio May, 32, was booked on a misdemeanor charge at the Fulton County jail on September 11, 2018 after being arrested for throwing rocks at the American Cancer Society building when the officers allegedly declared it was ‘Taser Tuesday.’
The phrase came from inmates and employees at the jail, attorneys for May’s family said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The father of three was placed in a general holding cell despite having amphetamines in his system and being ruled suicidal by a medical technician, a wrongful death lawsuit filed by his family states.
May, whose family claims struggled with mental health issues, began to undress exposing himself to the guards when six deputies, rushed into his cell. During the ‘confrontation,’ all six deputies ‘repeatedly’ tasered, beat and pepper-sprayed the inmate, the lawsuit alleges.
According to court papers, some of the deputies placed their stun guns near May’s genitals and around his buttocks.
‘The detention officers beat Mr. May with closed fist strikes and sprayed pepper spray in his face,’ court documents state.
They then allegedly set May in a restraining chair and placed a ‘spit mask’ over his head as they attempted to wash the pepper spray from his face with a hose, according to the lawsuit.
May was dead ‘laying in a pool of his own blood’ a few minutes later, the lawsuit claims. His lawyer, Michael Harper, said May died of cardiovascular collapse due to physical restraints.
Antonio May (left) was pronounced dead at the Fulton County jail on September 11, 2018
May was allegedly repeatedly tased, beaten and pepper-sprayed in his cell and pronounced dead several minutes later. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2019 that is still ongoing
His family filed the wrongful death civil case against Fulton County jail and its healthcare provider Naphcare, Inc. in May 2019. The civil case been tied up in court with nine officers and Naphcare Inc. filing motions to dismiss the case citing a lack of evidence.
The Fulton County Sheriff’s department did not respond to DailyMail.com for a comment.
‘As opposed to putting Mr. May in the Special Medical Observation Unit at the Fulton County Jail and giving him detoxifying chemical sedation, due to his mental health issues and due to him testing positive for amphetamines, the medical professionals at NaphCare, Inc. released Mr. May to the jail deputies to place Mr. May in a general holding cell,’ the lawsuit claims.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took up the case when the lawsuit was filed. The GBI found that May had been combative with the staff prior to the altercation when the deputies tased and pepper-sprayed the inmate. A GBI spokeswoman confirmed to AJC at the time that May died at the jail after being washed of the pepper-spray.
The case was investigated by the Fulton District Attorney’s office for three-years before DA Fani Willis took office earlier this year promising to dig into the backlog of 11,000 cases stalled by the pandemic and inaction of her predecessor Paul Howard.
Many of these cases include use of force involving law enforcement.
On Tuesday, the DA’s office presented the results of its three-year investigation into May’s death.
DA Willis released a statement following the indictment: ‘It is now the duty of my office to prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury at trial. My staff and I will continue to work to ensure that justice is done in this case.’
Harper and Teddy Reese, who represent May’s family, stood beside two of May’s sons Za’Kobe and Jordan Rickerson, who held up family photos, and other family members during the press conference Tuesday afternoon, AJC reported.
‘This is not an anti-police moment,’ Reese said. ‘This is an accountability moment. This is holding people responsible for taking a man’s life in cold blood murder.’
Harper told DailyMail.com hopes that the indictment will push the judge ruling over the wrongful death case to deny the motions to dismiss the case and move it forward.
He insist the indictment: ‘goes to show that times have changed and society are beginning to uphold these law enforcement officers accountable for murder.’
May’s grandmother, April Myrick, told WSB-TV that the indictment proves that her grandson ‘mattered.’
‘Thank God this is being done,’ Myrick said. ‘Thank God. He mattered. Everybody mattered.’