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Atlanta Prosecutor Sues DOJ For Blocking Investigation Of Incident Where Cops Shot A Man 59 Times

Published: January 5, 2019
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Source: Tech Dirt

A case that involves some shocking numbers has resulted in a lawsuit against the DOJ. An investigation into a raid that ended with law enforcement officers putting 59 bullets into the body of an Atlanta resident has dead-ended and it appears to be because the DOJ doesn't want to talk about it.

Jamarion Robinson, a 26-year-old student and football player at Clark Atlanta University, was shot and killed by a team of local and federal officers who broke down the door to his girlfriend’s apartment on Aug. 5, 2016, according to a lawsuitfiled Thursday in Atlanta federal court by the office of Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.   

The DA says he has repeatedly attempted to work with the DOJ to obtain the personnel files and training materials of the officers responsible for Robinson’s death, all to no avail.

“It has now been 875 days since the officers killed Mr. Robinson, and the DOJ has yet to provide any of the documents or evidence requested and has failed to provide any investigative reports relating to Mr. Robinson’s death,” the complaint states.

The opening of the DA's lawsuit [PDF] doesn't explain what Atlanta prosecutors did for the first 275 days, but it does point out the DOJ has been blocking this investigation for nearly two years at this point.

Having been stymied for more than 600 days from receiving any documents from the Department of Justice related to the shooting of Jamarion Robinson, Plaintiff Office of the Fulton County District Attorney (“Plaintiff” or “the District Attorney”) brings this action against Defendant United States Department of Justice (“Defendant” or “the DOJ”) to compel compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (“FOIA”).

This FOIA lawsuit is only part of the federal government's problems. The family of Jamarion Robinson has also sued the officers involved in the shooting, which includes the US Marshals Service. This lawsuit appears to be on hold at the moment as everyone suing over the shooting attempts to obtain documents related to Robinson's killing.

The numbers mentioned above -- 59 bullet holes, 600 days of DOJ stonewalling -- are just part of the picture. There's also the number of officers involved and the number of bullets expended to take the life of someone law enforcement apparently had little reason to suspect might respond violently.

On August 5, 2016, 14 law enforcement officers from eight separate local municipal police departments, along with at least one United States Marshal, traveled to the Parkside Camp Creek Luxury Apartments in Atlanta, Georgia to execute a State of Georgia arrest warrant for Jamarion Robinson (hereinafter “Mr. Robinson”). The state arrest warrant alleged that Mr. Robinson committed an aggravated assault in violation of Georgia Code Annotated 16-5-21, a state crime. Mr. Robinson was not charged with any federal crime, and there was not a federal arrest warrant pending for Mr. Robinson.

The DA's lawsuit notes Robinson's only legal problem up to this point was a traffic violation. It also points out Robinson suffered from schizophrenia, which might explain his uncharacteristic decision to allegedly point a gun at police officers (and three tenants of a nearby apartment) days before he was gunned down in his apartment. Supposedly, Robinson fired a shot (or three shots… depending on which statement you read) at the officers attempting to serve a warrant which apparently justified this response.

[T]he officers knocked down the door to the apartment and immediately commenced firing approximately 51 shots from outside into the apartment without any known provocation and with reckless disregard for the safety of anyone else in the apartment and surrounding apartment units.

The officers then entered the apartment and fired approximately 41 additional shots from weapons, including a 9mm submachine gun, a .40mm submachine gun, and a .40 Glock pistol.

After officers fired more than 90 bullets into Robinson's apartment, some claimed Robinson fired at them first. But statements made by other officers and the results of the ensuing search punch holes in this narrative.

At the conclusion of the shooting, a firearm was located, which the officers claimed that Mr. Robinson fired at them three times. However, when the firearm was recovered, it was damaged and inoperable. Moreover, in an investigative report completed by Officer Steve Schreckengost, he did not state that the officers entered the premises because Mr. Robinson was shooting. Rather, Officer Schreckengost claims they entered to protect others inside the apartment from Mr. Robinson, although it was clear from their surveillance no one else was in the apartment.

They wanted to "protect" others from Robinson, but no one involved was interested in Robinson's safety. The team of officers was aware of Robinson's mental health issues and had spoken to his family prior to the raid. But not a single member of the 14-person, multi-office "task force" did anything that might have resulted in a peaceful arrest, like ask for advice, assistance, or third-party search consent from Robinson's family or his current roommate.

Six hundred days of DOJ stonewalling roughly aligns with the agency's reshuffled priorities following Trump's presidential win. The incoming AG (Jeff Sessions) yanked funding from the DOJ's civil rights department and said the agency would no longer be investigating the actions of local law enforcement. If there are any documents to be obtained from the DOJ, they're likely in the process of being massaged into exonerative shape before being released.


Related Articles:

The family of a 26-year-old Atlanta man who was killed after police shot him 76 times has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officers involved. In August of 2016, police broke down the door of Jamarion Robinson’s girlfriend’s home in Parkside Camp Creek Luxury Apartments and began spraying the interior of the apartment with bullets. Robinson was killed by multiple police task force officers from several different departments, including the U.S. Marshal Service.

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