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Unsealed: Body camera from Marietta councilman's arrest during traffic stop released

The Marietta city councilman faced obstruction charges after he reportedly refused to cooperate with police after getting into an accident in May 2019.

MARIETTA, Ga. — The body camera videos of a Marietta city councilman's arrest last May have been unsealed following the end of an investigation, and appear to show how a simple fender bender with another driver escalated to his arrest.

Marietta city councilman Reginald Copeland faced obstruction charges after he reportedly refused to cooperate with police following an accident in May 2019, according to warrants from the incident.

The crash, according to a police report, happened around 11 a.m. on May 24 near the intersection of South Fairground Street at Haley Street in Marietta. 

The police report said Reginald Copeland was traveling south on Fairground Street in the left lane and was approaching Haley Street. At the same time, police said a 19-year-old was trying to make a U-turn, and hit the side of the 56-year-old's vehicle. 

But, when police responded to the accident, video from police-worn body cameras show how the situation unfolded.

Credit: Cobb County Sheriff's Office

11Alive obtained a dozen videos from the arrest through an open records request, which shows the response of multiple Marietta Police officers to the situation, including the original responding officer. 

Video from that officer's body camera shows him approaching Copeland, who is inspecting his pickup truck which still sitting in the lanes of traffic. The officer asks Copeland what happened, and then asks him if he would move the truck into a parking lot to allow traffic to flow again, but Copeland can be heard in the video saying that his truck won't start.

RELATED: Marietta councilman arrested after reportedly refusing to cooperate with police following traffic accident

The officer begins to take a report, and says "I'm gonna cut him loose in a second, here."

But what may have started as a simple traffic accident takes a turn when the officer asks Copeland for his insurance and driver's license. Copeland can be seen in the body camera video rummaging for something. 

Copeland asked the officer if the other driver is going to be cited, to which the officer answers, "Maybe, I haven't spoken to her, yet."

The officer again asks Copeland for his license, but the councilman seemingly stalls. The officer asks again for his license "like right now," and Copeland still continues to question the officer about the other driver.

"Do you have your driver’s license or not?" the officer asks again, but losing patience, he says, "OK. Forget about it."

The officer moves to close Copeland's door, but apparently catches his foot in the door.

"Don’t close my foot up in the door," Copeland said. 

It's at this point Copeland calls 911, and is connected to dispatch. He then identifies himself as a councilman and tells the operator that he's been in an accident, all the while avoiding answering the officer's questions. 

The officer's body camera video catches the exchange.

"Are you gonna keep ignoring me while I’m trying to handle this accident?" he asks Copeland, to no reply. 

Copeland continues to answer the dispatcher's questions, instead. The officer, now clearly frustrated, points out that there's no need to call 911 when he has already responded to the accident.

"Let her know that you’re out with the cops and you’re wasting 911’s time right now," the officer said to Copeland. 

It's at this point that Copeland rolls up his window and turns the ignition of his truck - this time it cranks and he pulls his truck out of the way into an adjacent parking lot. 

The officer follows on foot, knocking on Copeland's window multiple times. 

"Are you going to keep ignoring me?" the officer asks through the window before asking him to get out of the car.

At this point, Copeland is on the phone with the Deputy Chief trying to explain his side of the story; however, the officer tells the chief through speakerphone that Copeland is being uncooperative. 

Copeland eventually hangs up and the officer again attempts to get the councilman out of the car, but he still does not comply. By this time, several other officers have gotten to the scene and attempt to force Copeland from the car, to his objection. 

Credit: WXIA

“I told you three times to step out of the car," the officer said.

“I’m going to step out the car … you don’t have to put your hands on me. I haven’t done anything," Copeland replied. 

“I’m done with this man," the officer said back. "Step out or you're gonna get tased bro."

"Stop resisting," the officer said.

"I’m not resisting," Copeland replies.

"You’re acting like a child," the officer said.

The officers are finally able to get Copeland handcuffed, and they tell him he's being arrested for obstruction.

"Obstruction? What did I do?" Copeland asked. 

"This is terrible," he added.

"I agree," one of the officers responded.

At this time, supervisors have been notified of the situation and begin to arrive on the scene. The original officer explains what happens, and Copeland's "total passive resistance." That exchange is, too, caught on camera.

Ultimately, a supervisor on the scene made the call to un-cuff - but not un-arrest - Copeland and decided that it would be best to not charge the councilman that day before the body camera video was reviewed.

"He’s not going anywhere. We obviously know him," the supervisor said.

Throughout the entire ordeal, Copeland never appeared to produce his driver's license.

11Alive has reached out to Copeland for a statement regarding the release of the body camera videos, but has not gotten a response.


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