The Atlanta Citizens Review Board upheld Thursday night the allegation of a false arrest made by David Shepherd, the Atlanta Eagle bar employee who lived in the apartment of the bar and who was arrested in his home during the controversial raid last September.
Citizens Review Board upholds complaint against police from Eagle raid
“This is pretty cut and dry to me — he was falsely arrested and I think we should follow the recommendation of the [CRB] staff to sustain the complaint,” said member Alan Morris.
Seth Kirschenbaum, a criminal defense attorney and vice chair of the board, at first agreed Shepherd’s complaint was an easy one to uphold. But he later questioned if going just after the arresting officers was enough.
“[They] were there because they were told to be there by superiors. This raid was a coordinated effort by at least two units of the APD. This has got to be supervised by higher authorities,” he said.
“To have Red Dog come to ride herd on them while their [the patrons’] personal information was extracted — I think the real responsibility lies at a higher level. It’s a terrible mistake just to punish these officers who were part of a big, concerted, coordinated effort organized by higher ups,” Kirschenbaum said. “We have the responsibility to go up the chain of command to ask who knew what and when did they know it.”
All members were not fully on board at first to vote to sustain the complaint. But CRB Executive Director Cristina Beamud described the process that went into her and the CRB’s investigator’s research and investigation.
“I started with the citation — on this date and this time [of the raid] Shepherd was at home. He did not commit the offense on the citation [of permit violations.] The report contained no allegation against Shepherd,” she said. “This man was guilty of watching TV.”
After voting to sustain the allegation, the board also voted on recommendations for disciplinary actions against the arresting officers to be given to Atlanta Police Interim Chief George Turner to consider.Members voted that Officer B.E. Bridges be given a written reprimand to go into his personnel file. The board then voted that Officer John Brock, because he was a supervisor of the raid, be given a three-day suspension.
Before the board voted on recommendations for discipline, Joy Morrissey, chair of the CRB and who is openly gay, reported that Bridges and Brock each had several personnel complaints on file against them.
Brock has been with APD since 1992 and has 21 complaints filed against him, Morrissey said. Five of those complaints were sustained and one is pending. Brock’s complaints consisted mostly of not appearing in court, she said.
Bridges testified for the prosecution in the Eagle 8 trial and misidentified several of the defendants, forcing the prosecutor to dismiss charges against four defendants including Shepherd. He faced more serious complaints.
“In comparison to Officer B.E. Bridges, Brock’s history pales in comparison,” Morrissey said.
“Since 1991, he has had 32 complaints … that include failure to appear in court, truthfulness, use of intoxicants and unnecessary use of force,” she said.
Those complaints included being disciplined for having alcohol on his breath one morning during training in the police academy. He was recommended to be kicked out of the force but a lieutenant overruled that recommendation.
In 1993, Bridges was in his personal vehicle and struck by another driver. Bridges pursued the motorist and detained the driver until police got to the scene. The person Bridges detained said Bridges kicked him while handcuffing him and fractured two of his ribs. For that infraction, Bridges was suspended for three days, Morrissey said.
Also, while off duty several years ago, Bridges was involved in a hit and run while driving drunk. He first lied to police saying he had been robbed at gunpoint and then later confessed that he was drunk and lied because he was afraid to lose his job. For lying, Bridges was suspended for 15 days, Morrissey said.
In court testimony during the Eagle 8 trial, Bridges testified he purchased several beers while doing surveillance the night of the raid. He testified he was not drunk, however, because he only took one or two sips of each drink before throwing the beer away.
“I have no doubt his days are numbered,” Morrissey added.Kirschenbaum, who finished his three-year term on the board Thursday, stressed that what happened at the Atlanta Eagle was an institutional act that was “dangerous.”
“What offends me the most is putting the patrons on the ground,” he said.
The raid turned out to be a “real dud,” he said, because no drugs were found and nobody that was searched had a warrant out against them.
“The decision to arrest people probably came from superiors. This was a botched raid,” he said.
The CRB, formed after the killing of Kathryn Johnston three years ago due to an illegal drug raid, conducted an in-depth report of that raid and submitted it to the APD for review in May. This week Chief Turner announced two officers involved in the raid were fired while another who was being investigated resigned. The officers fired by the chief were the same ones recommended for termination by the CRB, Beamud said.
The CRB said it would likely conduct a similar in-depth investigation and report on the Atlanta Eagle raid.
Thirteen other complaints by Atlanta Eagle patrons and employees have been filed with the CRB and will be discussed individually in upcoming meetings. Shepherd’s case was the first Atlanta Eagle case the board investigated.
Shepherd, a manager for the gay bar on Ponce de Leon Avenue, filed his complaint with the CRB on March 9.
Shepherd is also a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed by attorney Dan Grossman, Lambda Legal and the Southern Center for Human Rights against the APD and the city of Atlanta with several other employees and patrons of the Atlanta Eagle.
Shepherd was one of eight defendants in the Atlanta Eagle trial held March 11. Known as the Eagle 8, the defendants included employees and dancers who were charged with business license and permit violations.
During the course of the trial, the prosecutor from the Solicitor’s Office ended up dropping charges against Shepherd and three other employees; the judge in the case found three others not guilty. One dancer did not appear in court and a bench warrant has been issued against him.