SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — A police officer is under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, accused of using excessive force against a man who just happens to be a leading activist for police reforms.
The officer, Solomon Muhammad, is with the City of South Fulton Police Department, which prides itself on progressive and humane policing.
Now, cell phone video, shared by Marcus Coleman, founder and C.E.O. of the community outreach and activist organization Save OurSelves- Coleman is the man making the accusations against the officer - appears to show what happened.
On Friday afternoon, traffic had slowed to a stand-still because of a bad accident on Roosevelt Highway at Rock Hill Road.
"Tell me why ain't nobody directing traffic," Coleman can be heard on his cell phone video as he stood outside his own car and showed the traffic jam.
In an interview with 11Alive on Monday, Coleman said he'd been worried that drivers might end up causing another accident, by crossing into oncoming traffic trying to get around the collision.
Coleman continued to record video on his cell phone as he walked up to Officer Muhammad, who was the only officer at the scene. Muhammad was inside his patrol car. Coleman walked up to the passenger side, staying several feet away, and spoke to Muhammad through the open window.
"Hey officer," Coleman said, "How come ain’t nobody directing traffic right here?”
Muhammad did not speak, but closed the passenger window and motioned with his hand as if indicating he would respond in a minute.
Coleman continued to record video, which shows how in just a couple of minutes he and Muhammad were involved in a verbal and physical confrontation.
The officer got out of his car and walked right up to Coleman, then backed away, and told Coleman he'd been sitting inside his car because he was writing up the accident report, while waiting for another officer to arrive to direct traffic.
"I'm just a citizen out here trying to make sure everybody's all right, while you in your car," Coleman can be heard saying in his video.
"I'm just doing a report," Muhammad said.
"Yeah, that's cool," Coleman said. "We'll see what Chief Meadows say about that."
The video shows the officer walking quickly up to Coleman again, and this time he appears to try to bat away Coleman's phone as the two men begin to scuffle.
Coleman said later that Muhammad pressed a Taser against his chest.
"You gonna tase me, bro?" Coleman can be heard asking during the scuffle.
Coleman, who is an activist for progressive police reforms in the City of South Fulton Police Department, as well as across the country, said he was surprised, after all the work he has done with the department.
"I never would have imagined... in my involvement (with the South Fulton Police Department), that something could have escalated so fast into a life or death situation."
Coleman said he raised his hands and surrendered to the officer, and that the officer placed him in handcuffs and kept him in the back of his patrol car for nearly an hour without telling Coleman why he was being detained. A supervisor showed up and ordered Muhammad to release Coleman.
"He's a loose cannon. He's part of the problem," Coleman said Monday. "He snapped... My life was in jeopardy."
The City of South Fulton emailed 11Alive a statement about the city's policing policy, which states, in part, that, "The city does not condone and will not tolerate excessive use of force by our officers...”
“We provide de-escalation and other innovative training ... to prevent such incidents.”
Coleman said the police chief, the mayor and city councilmembers have called him, asking if he's okay. He said he wants Officer Muhammad fired, charged and prosecuted.
"I'm a realist. Just because this happened to me, this has been going on" everywhere. "I'm just another case number... But they picked the right one, because I'm going to take every aspect of what happened to me and make sure that there are policy changes" in the department.
Even a progressive city, Coleman said, needs to police its police officers.
"That's what my life's calling is," Coleman said. "So, this is a teachable moment."
"I'm not discouraged by any means that this happened to me," he continued. "If anything, it's further highlighted (these issues) and propelled us forward toward a better-policing community."
Muhammad is on administrative duty while the GBI investigates the incident and the city considers whether to pursue possible charges against him.