Shooting of Jamarion Robinson
|Date||August 5, 2016|
|Location||East Point, Georgia|
On August 5, 2016, Jamarion Rashad Robinson, a 26-year-old African American man who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was shot 76 times and killed in a police raid in East Point, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. The shooting occurred when at least 14 officers of a Southeast Regional Fugitive Taskforce from at least seven different agencies, led by U.S. Marshals, forcibly entered the apartment of Robinson's girlfriend to serve a warrant for his arrest. The officers were heavily armed, including with submachine guns. The warrant was being served on behalf of the Gwinnett County police and the Atlanta Police Department, and authorities said they had sought his arrest after he fired a gun at police or pointed a gun at police during a previous encounter. The case was highlighted as an example of alleged excessive force by law enforcement officers, potential systemic racism in law enforcement, a lack of sensitivity in police interaction with mentally ill people, a lack of transparency and accountability surrounding the actions of police officers, and a lack of use of body cameras by police and U.S. Marshals when serving arrest warrants.
Jamarion Robinson had been a biology student at Clark Atlanta University (CAU), and had been a running back on the football teams of CAU and Tuskegee University, but he had paused his education several years prior to the incident. According to his mother, he was in the process of transferring to Tuskegee University and had texted her two days before the shooting to tell her he had just enrolled there for what would be his final semester.
He had no criminal record other than a series of misdemeanor traffic violations in the previous two years. His family said they believe the police were seeking him due to mistaking him for someone else. Police showed a photo of the man they were seeking to his grandmother, and she said "That's not my grandson."
U.S. Marshals traveled to the apartment in order to arrest Robinson. His mother had called the police to try to get them to help him get mental health assistance, as a few weeks prior he had poured gasoline on the floor beneath his bed and in front of his mother's bedroom. When she called, they also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. He had allegedly pointed a gun at officers before fleeing when he was confronted at the apartment complex of a friend. His mother had told police about his recent diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, but they did not bring any mental health practitioners with them for the raid.
Robinson was staying with his girlfriend at the time of the incident, and lived with his mother in Lawrenceville. Officers claimed they had opened fire after Robinson refused to exit his girlfriend's apartment and was seen with a gun in his hand. Warning shots and the continued gunfire was filmed by a resident standing near the apartment on their cellphone. According that video recording, the shooting continued for nearly three minutes.
According to an investigator hired by the family, the evidence showed that after killing Robinson, police handcuffed his hands behind his back, dragged his body down the stairs from the second floor to the living room on the lower level, and threw a flash-bang grenade into the area after the shooting in an apparent attempt to confuse the investigation of the scene. The body was also found to be wearing an oxygen rebreathing mask when recovered by the medical examiner. The family said that a pathologist found that Robinson had been shot several times through the palms of both hands.
The medical report on Robinson's body listed 76 bullet wounds, 59 of which were identified as entry wounds and the other 17 as exit wounds. None of the officers were injured in the incident. None of the police officers involved in the shooting wore body cameras.
Bullets recovered at the scene included 9 mm and .40 caliber H&K submachine gun bullets and .40 caliber Glock ammunition. Two of the 9 mm bullets were later recovered at the scene by the family's investigator, who found them embedded deep into the floor at the top of the stairwell and said they appeared to have been fired directly downwards into Robinson or the floor (although this was on the second floor, above where the police were standing when the shooting began).
On the day after the shooting, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) released a statement saying Robinson had been repeatedly ordered to put down a weapon before the shooting began. A handgun was later recovered at the scene that the GBI said was "believed to be associated with Robinson", and it was reported that officers who had been involved in the shooting said Robinson fired at them three times, but that the handgun was actually damaged and was not operable.
Lack of body camera use
The ACLU highlighted the case as an illustration of how police officers, and particularly U.S. Marshals, were often not wearing body cameras, and strongly advocated that they start using them under more circumstances. District Attorney Paul Howard agreed, saying "If we had body cams, a lot of the issues that have been raised about that case would go away." It was reported that U.S. Marshals were never wearing body cameras, even when serving arrest warrants. Some of the officers involved in the raid were from the East Point Police, who ordinarily had vehicles outfitted with dash cameras, but in this instance new vehicles were used that did not have cameras installed.
In January 2018, Robinson's family filed a lawsuit against the officers involved in the shooting, alleging that Robinson had not posed any immediate threat to the officers or others at the time of the shooting and that the officers violated Robinson's civil rights. The suit claimed the officers had "conspired among and between themselves to unreasonably stop, seize, shoot and injure Jamarion Robinson in violation of his Constitutional rights, to destroy and fabricate evidence, to complete false, inaccurate and misleading reports, and to make false statements to superior officers in order to conceal their wrongdoing." In addition to officers of the U.S. Marshals Service, those named in the suit were officers from the police or fire departments of Atlanta, Clayton County, East Point, Fayette County and Fulton County.
Paul Howard, the District Attorney of Fulton County, tried to investigate the shooting, but the U.S. Marshals Service did not cooperate with his investigation. On December 28, 2018, he filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for failing to provide information about the case in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. He said that federal authorities had prevented his prosecutors from interviewing the officers who were involved in the shooting and had refused to turn over any documents relating to the case. According to his lawsuit filing, more than 90 rounds of ammunition had been fired into or within the apartment.
In January 2019, after the Department of Justice raised procedural objections, Howard withdrew subpoenas to interview some of the officers involved in the shooting, which he said was in a "spirit of cooperation" with the agency. In June 2020, Robinson's family said they had lost confidence in Howard's investigation. Robinson's mother said "Paul Howard has failed my family and has not tried to indict the officers who murdered my son even though he's been promising me he's going to take action for nearly four years. ... I do not believe him at all!"
His death was highlighted by activists during the "National Day of Outrage" on October 28, 2019, along with the deaths of Atatiana Jefferson, Kendrick Johnson, Nicholas Thomas, and Jimmy Atchison. Members of the New Black Panther Party, organized and marched in honor of African-American individuals shot and killed by police in recent years. Students at the Atlanta University Center used the hashtag #AUCShutItDown to voice support of the family and draw attention to his death.
One of the officers involved in the shooting was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and property damage in June 2020 in an incident involving the tasing of two students as they sat in their car during a protest held around Atlanta University Center during the George Floyd–related protests. The officer had also been involved in other previous cases of alleged excessive force, including the shooting death of an unarmed shop customer (Jerry Jackson) in the mid-1990s that resulted in a settlement of $1.4 million paid by the city and the shooting of another unarmed man (Thomas F. Truitt) in 2012.
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