Georgia agency to investigate jailers who punched detainee

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — State criminal investigators in Georgia agreed Tuesday to launch an investigation into a September confrontation at a county jail in which security cameras recorded guards repeatedly punching a detainee in the head and neck after rushing into his cell.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a statement its agents will pass their findings to Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Keith Higgins, who requested an independent investigation after video of the detainee being punched and hurled against a wall was made public.

Atlanta civil rights attorney Harry Daniels says the video shows Camden County deputies unleashing a “brutal beating” without provocation on Jarrett Hobbs. Daniels on Monday released video taken from security cameras inside and outside Hobbs’ cell on Sept. 3, the day the 41-year-old Black man from Greensboro, North Carolina, was booked on drug possession and traffic violation charges.

Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor, who oversees the jail, said Monday that his office was conducting an internal investigation “to begin immediately.” Daniels noted that more than two months have passed since the violent clash and that Hobbs was immediately charged with fighting the jailers.

The sheriff’s office has declined to answer further questions about the case, including whether the five deputies involved remain on duty. The names and races of the jailers have also not been released. Camden County is located on the Georgia coast about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Savannah.

Federal court records in North Carolina, where a judge last week revoked Hobbs’ probation for a 2014 federal criminal conviction in part because of his arrest in Georgia, say guards entered Hobbs’ cell because he was repeatedly kicking his cell door and refusing orders to stop.

The video shows Hobbs alone in a cell standing by the door, then turning toward the bed and picking up two objects. His attorney said they were a piece of paper and a sandwich. A guard rushes into the cell and grabs Hobbs around the neck, trying to push him into a corner. Four others come in behind him.

As jailers try to hold Hobbs by his wrists, one of them starts punching Hobbs in the back of the head and neck. The video shows at least two other guards throwing punches. A second video from a camera outside the cell shows jailers drag Hobbs through the open door and hurl him against a wall. A deputy rapidly raises his right knee and foot a few times, though it’s unclear if he was striking Hobbs. The struggle continues until Hobbs, who is out of the camera frame, appears to be pinned on the ground. The entire confrontation lasts about a minute.

Jail records show Hobbs was charged afterward with aggravated battery, simple assault and obstruction of law enforcement officers.

There is no sound in the video released by Daniels. The attorney said he has a copy with audio, but he declined to share it.

Hobbs’ attorneys planned to discuss the case further during a news conference Wednesday in Camden County.

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