Three officers who were caught in video widely seen repeatedly beating and punching an inmate at a Camden County, Georgia, jail have been arrested, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Tuesday.
The three men – Mason Garrick, 23, of Bryceville, Fla.; Ryan Biegel, 24, of Kingsland, Georgia; and Braxton Massey, 21, of Kingsland – have each been charged with one count of battery and one count of breach of public office.
The arrests came a week after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced it would review the beating of Jarrett Hobbs, who, as evidenced by videos released by his attorney, was stuck in his cell on September 3 and surrounded by several police officers. Camden County Jail in Woodbine, Georgia, which struck him repeatedly in the head.
Mr Hobbs’ lawyer, Harry Daniels, said last week the beating of a black man by white officers in the Deep South was reminiscent of the days of ‘old pre-war Jim Crow’.
“This is just the first step towards justice,” Daniels said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to the arrests. “Convictions and imprisonment are the last acts.”
It was unclear whether the men had lawyers. Mr Garrick could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday evening. Phone calls made to numbers listed as belonging to Mr. Biegel and Mr. Massey were not immediately returned.
James L. Bruce, a spokesman for the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the jail, said in a statement that “due to continued internal investigation and possible litigation, no further comment will not be made”.
He confirmed in an email that Mr. Garrick, who worked as a correctional officer, and Mr. Biegel and Mr. Massey, who were assistants, had been terminated.
Three videos from the episode show five officers entering Mr. Hobbs’ cell, grabbing his face and punching him in the head. They then drag him out of his cell down the hall and push him against a wall, where the beatings continue. Although the sound is muffled, Mr. Hobbs seems to wonder at one point why the guards are hitting him, and he screams.
In court documents filed in the US District Court in North Carolina, FJ Carney, Mr Hobbs’ probation officer, said Mr Hobbs kicked his cell door before he was beaten .
Mr Carney said Mr Hobbs resisted the guards and punched one in the face and another in the side of the head, leaving one guard with a bruised eye and a broken hand, the document said.
At a press conference Tuesday announcing the arrest of the three officers, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Michael Register said investigators have interviewed or attempted to interview all parties involved and have determined that the charges laid against the officers were justified.
“I believe the majority of men and women who wear badges in this country are truly seeking to protect and to serve,” he said. “Unfortunately, some discredit the profession, the badge and the oath they have sworn to uphold. That is why we are here today.
Asked about his first reaction to seeing the video, Mr Register said ‘it shocked the conscience’.
Mr. Hobbs, 41, of Greensboro, North Carolina, was held in Camden County Jail from September 3 to 30 in connection with traffic violations and possession of a controlled substance, according to Mr. Daniels. A North Carolina judge revoked Mr Hobbs’ probation earlier this month for breaching the terms of his supervised release while dismissing a violation related to the assault, battery and obstruction charges against Camden County Jail employees, Mr. Daniels said.
He is currently being held at the Guilford County Detention Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, in connection with a violation of his probation related to a 2014 fraud conviction, Daniels said. Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials interviewed him at that jail, Register said.