Controversy over police raid of Atlanta Eagle spanned more than a year. Here is a complete timeline of events, from the raid to the settlement.

Atlanta Eagle raid timeline and fallout



Sept. 10 — The Atlanta Eagle is raided by the Atlanta Police Department, including members of the Red Dog Unit, on a Thursday, its once popular “Underwear Night.” Eight people are arrested, including employees and dancers. They are charged with operating and working at an adult establishment without the proper licenses. The police say the raid was part of a months-long investigation into allegations to Mayor Shirley Franklin of public sex taking place in the bar. Of the some 60 patrons in the bar that night, no one was charged with illegal sex or with drug possession. In the days following the raid, numerous political candidates, including Kasim Reed, running for mayor, call for an investigation into the police actions.

Sept. 13 — Hundreds of people gather in the Atlanta Eagle parking lot to protest the raid.

Sept. 14 — Several patrons of the bar the night it was raided, including arrested employees, file official complaints with the Atlanta Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. They allege they were forced to lie face down on the floor of the bar including some being cut by broken glass on the floor, were treated roughly including being kicked and shoved by officers with the Red Dog Unit and had anti-gay slurs hurled at them. The OPS investigation has not yet been released to the public more than a year later.

Sept. 14 — Key commanders and now former APD Chief Richard Pennington hold a press conference to address the controversial raid, stressing they did nothing wrong.

Sept. 19 — Close to 100 people rally at City Hall on a rainy Saturday to protest the botched Atlanta Eagle raid. Officer Dani Lee Harris, former LGBT liaison for the APD, speaks at the rally. The fact Harris was not informed about the raid before it happened causes more controversy between the LGBT community and the APD.

Sept. 22 — Atlanta Pride announces that APD Officer Dani Lee Harris, then the LGBT liaison for the department, would serve as a grand marshal for the parade. This decision causes backlash from Atlanta Eagle owners and patrons in the weeks following the announcement. To try to quell the anger, the Atlanta Pride Committee names the Atlanta Eagle and its staff and patrons as co-grand marshals.


Nov. 24 — Attorney Dan Grossman, Lambda Legal and the Southern Center for Human Rights file a federal lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, Pennington, and 48 individual officers of the APD on behalf of 19 patrons of the bar the night it was raided. The suit claims the patrons had their constitutional rights violated for being searched and detained when they were not suspected of any crime. Since the suit was filed, plaintiffs have said they were interested more in an apology from the city and the promise of the APD revising its policies to ensure no such raid happens again rather than money. The case is Calhoun v. Pennington in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.



March 11 — The “Eagle 8” — the name given to those arrested during the raid — head to Atlanta Municipal Court with their defense attorney, Alan Begner, to face charges of permit violations. During the course of the trial, Larry Gardner, prosecutor for the Solicitor’s Office, dropped charges against bartender Chris Lopez, manager David Shepherd, doorman Ernest Buehl and Robert Kline. Judge Crystal Gaines found Thadeus Johnson, Robby Kelley and Leandro Apud not guilty, saying the city did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt the men were guilty of the charges. Some 20 supporters of the Atlanta Eagle in court that day erupted in cheers with her verdict. Antonio Benitez, a dancer, did not show up for the trial and a bench warrant was issued for him. This trial date occurred after it had been postponed twice.

March 15 — Discovery begins in Atlanta Eagle raid federal civil lawsuit.

March 17 — The federal lawsuit against the city is amended to name 35 APD officers, including former chief Pennington, rather than 48. Six additional plaintiffs are also added to the original 19. The suit continues to allege the city violated the U.S. and state constitutional rights of the plaintiffs through unlawful search and seizure, false imprisonment, assault, battery and trespass. The suit also alleges the city broke state law by raiding the bar without arrest warrants.


June 10 — The Atlanta Citizens Review Board votes to recommend APD officers Bennie Bridges and John Brock be disciplined for falsely arresting assistant manager David Shepherd during the Atlanta Eagle raid. Shepherd was off-duty and was in his apartment upstairs watching TV when the raid occurred and police came to his door and arrested him.


July 22 — At an LGBT town hall forum called by Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan to discuss recent anti-gay crimes in the city, Atlanta Eagle attorney Dan Grossman and Mayor Reed share a testy exchange about the federal lawsuit. Grossman revisits his argument that the city only needs to apologize for the raid to make the lawsuit disappear and could have been settled for no money. Reed argues back that as mayor he is the primary person with fiduciary responsibility for the city. “If there is a path that says that if hypothetically the mayor of Atlanta were to apologize to the GLBT community and that would resolve this without financial impact so the city would move on, I am willing to entertain that now that I am mayor,” Reed said.


Aug. 12 — The Atlanta Citizens Review Board sustains allegations that abusive language, including anti-gay slurs, was used by officers toward the patrons of the bar the night it was raided.

Aug. 31 — Mayor Reed announces the formation of an LGBT advisory board to the Atlanta Police Department. This is part of an effort to bridge the gap between the LGBT community and the police department.


Sept. 9 — The Atlanta Citizens Review Board finds 24 Atlanta police officers guilty of false imprisonment of patrons during the raid. The board also votes to conduct a separate study into the supervisors’ roles in the botched raid to ensure full accountability.

Sept. 29 — Mayor Reed and APD Chief George Turner name Officer Brian Sharp as the department’s second LGBT liaison. Having two LGBT liaisons on the police force fulfills a promise made by Reed when he campaigned for mayor.


Oct. 1 — The first meeting of the Atlanta Police LGBT advisory board takes place.

Oct. 6 — Atlanta Eagle attorneys file court documents alleging the city has destroyed and withheld evidence needed during the discovery phase of the lawsuit. Allegations against the city include that cell phone photos and text messages from officers involved in the raid were erased. Grossman also states in the motion he made site visits to the APD and found thousands of pages of documents relevant to the Atlanta Eagle case that were not turned over by the city.

Oct. 21 — Mayor Kasim Reed speaks to the Atlanta Executive Network and addresses the controversy surrounding the Atlanta Eagle raid and the ensuing lawsuit in a frank and open discussion. He promises a thorough investigation into allegations of destroyed evidence. Reed also states that if the allegations are true that the city will deal with the individuals involved in a public manner.

Oct. 22 — The city responds to the Atlanta Eagle attorneys’ allegations that the city is destroying and withholding evidence, asserting the city has done nothing wrong or illegal during the course of the lawsuit.

Oct. 28 — Mayor Reed is the keynote speaker at the Stonewall Bar Association’s annual awards dinner and announces a “blue ribbon panel” to act as an intermediary between the city and Atlanta Eagle attorneys to try to resolve the case.

Nov. 1 — Atlanta Eagle attorneys fire back at the city’s claim it has not done anything wrong during the discovery phase of the case. Atlanta Eagle attorneys’ state the city made “no specific or meaningful attempt to explain or rebut the most serious allegations” including the destroying of evidence on mobile phones of the officers involved in the raid and destruction of emails between officers involved in the raid.


Nov. 10 — Federal Judge Timothy Batten issues a gag order on the lawsuit and requires parties to meet on Nov. 22 for mediation before Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman.

Nov. 22 — Mediation begins between Atlanta Eagle attorneys and city attorneys.


Dec. 1 and Dec. 3 — The city and Atlanta Eagle plaintiffs enter into mediation talks with a settlement finally reached Dec. 3.

Dec. 6 — The Atlanta City Council votes 14-0 to approve the resolution on the settlement, which includes a $1.025 million payment to the plaintiffs and a mandate that changes be made to the APD’s standard operating procedures. Before the settlement is final, however, presiding federal Judge Timothy Batten must sign off on it. At press time Dec. 7, details of the settlement had not been released and the gag order remained in place.