Five Georgia police officers have been indicted on murder charges in the asphyxiation death of a 24-year-old naked music festival attendee who was forcefully held down and stunned more than a dozen times.
A grand jury on Friday charged each of the officers with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault in the Sept. 20, 2019, death of Fernando Rodriguez, who died after officers handcuffed him and held him down for nearly 10 minutes.
The officers also were charged with one count of violation of oath of office, for “stretching Rodriguez out on the ground in a prone position while he was handcuffed and shackled, holding him down and applying pressure to his body,” the Henry County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Rodriguez was walking naked in the middle of a road after attending the Imagine Concert Music Festival at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when police forced him to the ground and placed him in restraints.
Rodriguez appeared confused and uncooperative, but was not combative when one officer shocked him with a stun gun, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, citing police body camera footage.
Rodriquez fell onto his back and did not roll over as officers ordered, so they stunned him several more times and forced him to roll onto his belly, the paper reported. Multiple officers then kneeled on his arms, neck and back for nearly 10 minutes, even as cops were heard on body camera video saying he wasn’t breathing.
Rodriguez was pronounced dead a few days later. His death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.
Charged after two days of testimony before the grand jury were Henry County Officers Robert Butera and Quinton Phillips, and Hampton Officers Mason Lewis, Marcus Stroud and Gregory Bowlden. Arrest warrants are likely to be issued this week, the DA’s office said.
Rodriguez’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit in May that alleged the officers should have given medical aid instead of using physical force. The family settled claims against the Hampton Police Department in July for $3 million. Litigation against the Henry County Police Department is ongoing.