An Atlanta Police Department (APD) officer who kicked a mentally ill woman in the head as she lay handcuffed on the ground was fired on August 13, 2021. Sgt. Marc Theodule had been suspended without pay since July 27, 2021, a day after the incident was captured on a bystander’s cellphone video and went viral on social media.
In addition to the officer who kicked the woman, later identified as Ashley Cooley, his female partner, Bridget Citizen, was placed on paid leave. At the same time, APD investigated her for failure to intervene during the apparent assault. She has since been cleared of wrongdoing and returned to active duty.
Both Theodule and Citizen, as well as Cooley, are Black.
APD sent the officers to an apartment in the Summerhill neighborhood in response to a reported domestic disturbance. There they found and restrained Cooley, who allegedly spit at Theodule but missed him. Lying face-down on the ground with her hands cuffed behind her back, she spat again, this time hitting his shoe. That’s when he kicked her.
Officer Citizen did not appear to react to the assault at all.
Theodule allegedly kicked the woman more than once, which witnesses said the seven-second footage failed to capture, including the one who filmed the video.
Cooley's aunt, Nell Gibson, told local TV station WGCL that her niece suffers mental health problems, some of which are being treated with medication. She added that she and other family members thought Cooley “was off her meds because she's been acting kind of off."
Cooley's sister, Alexis Johnson, said she watched Cooley cooperate with the officers, getting on her knees even as she said, “10-13,” a reference to police code for someone who is a danger to herself or others.
In a statement, APD called the officers' actions "unacceptable." Chief Rodney Bryant was made aware of the video and began a review by APD’s Office of Professional Standards, which recommended the punishment Bryant meted out.
Making an appearance before the media the day after her assault, Cooley said the APD officers who assaulted her need to go to jail, and the rest of the force needs “more training” before she lost her cool and shouted at her entourage. She then stormed away from the podium, screaming, "Rise the (expletive) up. Defund the police."
Sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WGCL-TV, WSB-TV, meaww.com
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