Bodycam footage reveals the moment police in Georgia repeatedly tased an unarmed black man who has non-verbal autism and was carrying a spoon, which officers claimed they thought was a wrench.
Officers with the Glynn County Police Department, which posted the footage on its Facebook page, responded to a caller describing a man with no shirt and no shoes who appeared to be ‘flipping out,’ hitting himself in the head and approaching cars in Brunswick around 8.30pm on September 4.
The man, identified as Rajon Cherry, 21, is seen in the footage holding a silver object. One officer repeatedly shouts, ‘drop it,’ but Cherry continues to walk with the spoon in his hand. The cop deploys his taser, causing Cherry to writhe in agony and drop the spoon.
He continues to walk, however, while the cops continue shouting and a woman of-screen tells them that Cherry has autism. Cherry tries to pull the taser prongs off him before the officer tases him again and, this time, he falls to the ground.
Police in Brunswick, Georgia, repeatedly tased Rajon Cherry, 21, who has non-verbal autism, because they thought he had a weapon
Cherry was seen in the footage holding a silver object, which turned out to be a kitchen spoon
After the cop deploys his TASER, Cherry drops the spoon and attempts to run
Cherry gets up and continues forward before an officer tackles him by the waist to the ground. He screams and groans while officers struggle to restrain him. They then attempted to handcuff him for several minutes.
He gets up again, however, and runs before the officer continues to tase him and shot ‘get on the ground.’ This ensues for another several minutes, with the officer shouting, ‘we’re trying to help you, get on the ground!’
Eventually, the officers tackle him again and hold him in cross body lock – putting one arm under his and the other over the chest. Officers then handcuffed using two pairs of cuffs because of his ‘very broad shoulders,’ according to a press release from the department.
At this point, a woman off screen is screaming, ‘get off of him, he has autism! He is non-verbal!’
The cop says, ‘he’s getting in handcuffs, relax lady.’
Cherry was then guided into the back of a cop car and treated by the Glynn County Fire Rescue before being driven to the South East Georgia Regional Medical Center to treat his taser wounds and receive an evaluation, according to Glynn County police.
Back in the footage, the cops are seeing surveying the area and discussing what happened. One officer says, ‘So it was a spoon, but at the time I thought it was a wrench . . . I didn’t have time to figure out what it was.’
When he wouldn’t follow orders to get down, officers tackled him to the ground
The officer is seen in the footage walking to the cop car to see the kitchen spoon on the ground where Cherry dropped it
He adds, ‘I was retreating trying to get away from him and he kept coming towards me . . . I saw something in his hand and he kept advancing towards me. I go drop it, drop it, drop it, and he wouldn’t drop it.’
The officer walks to the cop car to see the kitchen spoon on the ground where Cherry dropped it.
On arrival at the hospital, officers released Cherry from custody and attempted to seek help for him from medical staff. Officers were also treated for minor injuries.
Chief of Police Jacques S. Battiste lauded the officers in a statement and said, ‘I commend the officers for using less lethal force and their ability to read the terrain as the event unfolded, preventing loss of life or serious injury to anyone involved.’
He added that ‘preservation of life is the goal of every police encounter.’
However, Cherry’s mother, Sherril Johnson, is not pleased with how the officers dealt with her son. ‘Let’s look over the black and white fact. Let’s look over the special needs fact. You didn’t treat him as a human,’ she told local news outlet First Coast News.
She added that the incident should serve as an example of why officers need training on how to deal with people with autism without immediately resorting to violence. ‘Hire an educated person that’s trained to deal with people with special needs,’ she said.
Chief of Police Jacques S. Battiste (right) lauded the officers ‘for using less lethal force.’ He became the department’s first black police chief in July
According to police, Johnson has not pressed charges and it is not clear if she will be seeking legal action. The incident is currently under administrative review by the Glynn County Police Department.
Battiste, who posted the footage to Facebook, became the department’s first black police chief in July. At the time, he told local news station WJXT 4: ‘I’ve always found that transparency is always the best way to be. Glynn County is a great county to work for.’
He added,: ‘It has a very, very prominent history. It also is building a better history moving toward better socioeconomic changes, it’s accepting diversity even at a greater level than it has done in the past.’
His tenure leading the department began a year after it became the subject of national attention following the death of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, who was unarmed and jogging when he was killed on February 23, 2020 by Gregory McMichael and his son Travis. The men claimed that they thought he was a burglar.
Just Wednesday, Ex-Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson was booked on misconduct charges alleging she used her position to shield Arbery’s killers from being arrested. The 49-year old former Georgia prosecutor on misconduct charges alleging she used her position to shield the men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery from being arrested after the shootings.
Glynn County is where Ahmaud Arbery killed while jogging by two men claiming they thought he was a burglar
Ex-Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson was recently booked on misconduct charges alleging she used her position to shield Arbery’s killers from arrest