ATLANTA – A police officer in suburban Atlanta has been fired after an internal investigation found he used unnecessary force during the arrest of a former college football player, the police chief said Thursday.
Henry County police officer David Rose faced administrative charges of maltreatment or unnecessary force during the Dec. 2 arrest of Desmond Marrow and also faced conduct violations, Chief Mark Amerman said in an emailed statement. Amerman said he agreed with an internal investigation's findings and fired Rose.
Also Thursday, Henry County District Attorney Darius Pattillo said no felony charges would be brought against Marrow.
Police were called to a shopping center parking lot because of an alleged road rage situation involving Marrow, according to the police report and witness statements.
In a one-minute video clip posted online, officers can be seen forcefully taking a handcuffed Marrow to the ground by sweeping his legs out from under him as he yells, "I'm not even fighting back." When he's on the ground, an officer puts his hand on Marrow's throat for several seconds and Marrow says, "I can't breathe," while another officer tells him to settle down.
Marrow is black. Henry County police didn't immediately respond to an email Thursday seeking to confirm Rose's race. Henry County is in the southeastern arc of metro Atlanta.
Rose was recorded on his in-car video camera system saying that he had choked Marrow and that he wasn't going to include that information in his report, Amerman said.
"(W)e promised to find the truth for Desmond Marrow," wherever it led, Amerson said. He added that "being open and transparent is important to us at the Henry County Police Department."
It wasn't immediately clear whether Rose had an attorney who could comment on his firing.
Marrow's lawyers had accused the officers of using excessive force and lying in their report. On Thursday, they applauded the police chief and district attorney.
"We're happy that this chief stepped forward and is holding the officer who choked Desmond accountable and getting him off the force, attorney Chris Stewart said in a phone interview.
Police had arrested Marrow on charges of terroristic threats, felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer, reckless driving and aggressive driving. A magistrate judge has already dismissed the terroristic threats charges. Pattillo said he won't pursue the felony charge, and the misdemeanor charges will now be turned over to the county solicitor general for review.
Marrow and his attorneys have maintained that Marrow followed two men in a car into a shopping center parking lot to talk with them after the men yelled racial slurs and threw coffee at him. Given those circumstances, another of Marrow's attorney's, Andrea Boyd, said she hopes the solicitor general will drop the other charges as well.
Marrow said the developments in his case represent a victory for other victims of excessive use of force by police.
"It's a step in the right direction for all the other victims, the ones that can't speak, the ones that died," he said. "It's a win for their families also."
Robbie Swinson, who witnessed Marrow's arrest, told The Associated Press last month that he believes police used unnecessary force when they took Marrow to the ground once he was in cuffs and choked him. But he also said he saw Marrow aggressively chase another vehicle down the road and in the parking lot, heard him talk about shooting people and then saw him scuffle with police as they tried to handcuff him.
The police chief said the department's internal investigation also found that the actions of a second officer were consistent with department policy. The brief video that circulated online doesn't show the entire encounter and doesn't show how much Marrow fought with officers as they tried to get control of the situation, Amerson said.
Addressing the part of the video that shows officers taking Marrow to the ground, Amerson said, "That is what police officers are trained to do when they cannot gain control of a suspect, and is in compliance with departmental policy."
Pattillo, the district attorney, said a review panel in his office is still working to determine whether the use of force was justified.
Marrow played football at the University of Toledo in Ohio but wasn't drafted out of college. He signed a contract in 2012 with the Houston Texans but was cut during preseason. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked him up but he didn't make the team.