ATLANTA — Five police officers were indicted Friday by a Henry County Grand Jury for the death of a 24-year-old man back in 2019.
The indictment charges Henry County Police Officers Robert Butera and Quinton Phillips, along with Hampton Police Officers Mason Lewis, Marcus Stroud and Gregory Bowlden with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, and one count of aggravated assault.
Each officer was also charged with one count of violation of oath of office for allegedly stretching Rodriguez out on the ground in a prone position (lying flat on chest with back up) while he was handcuffed and shackled, holding him down and applying pressure to his body.
Rodriguez' family also filed a federal lawsuit against the Henry County Police Department. The lawsuit alleges the police and officials violated Rodriguez's rights and wrongfully caused his death.
The law firm representing the family says his parents and brother are relieved after everything they've been through.
“The family was certainly hopeful that all of the officers would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said attorney Page Pate. "It seems like that is exactly what's happening.”
During the initial incident, Rodriguez, who was reportedly naked, was walking down Oak Street near the Atlanta Motor Speedway when he encountered police. Officers said he wasn't following commands and kept walking away from them. They eventually held his naked body down on the ground and tased him more than a dozen times, according to a release from the Henry County assistant district attorney.
"It's still difficult in Georgia to get police officers charged with crimes much less convicted of crimes. So we think this is a good first step but the case is far from over,” said Pate.
He also said that the family's second lawsuit, against the City of Hampton has been settled for $3 million.
"The fact that these officers are now criminally charged for this may help the Henry County Commission, the leaders in Henry County, recognize that this was improper conduct, and they could do the right thing and compensate the family for their loss," Pate said.