Lawsuit alleges HCPD, others conspired against Marrow

Ex-NFL player Desmond Marrow is suing Henry County, Sheriff Keith McBrayer, HCPD Chief Mark Amerman, and other county officials after his attorneys say Marrow was the victim of excessive force, conspiracy, and violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. (Special Photo)

McDONOUGH — Attorneys for former Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Desmond Marrow have filed a civil suit in State Court alleging a “massive” cover up following Marrow’s arrest and are calling for Attorney General Christopher Carr and District Attorney Darius Pattillo to open RICO and corrupt practices investigations.

Named in the lawsuit are Henry County, Sheriff Keith McBrayer, Police Chief Mark Amerman, Deputy Chief Michael Ireland, County Commission Chair June Wood, County Manager Cherie Hobson-Matthews, Officer Matt Donaldson, and former officer David Rose.

In the 40-page civil suit, attorneys L. Chris Stewart of Stewart, Seay & Felton Trial Attorneys and Andrea Boyd of the Price Boyd Law Firm, allege that, in addition to Henry County Police violating Marrow’s rights during his December arrest, county officials engaged in “a subsequent deprivation of rights due to a clear conspiracy of supervising law enforcement officials and County officials.”

Marrow was charged with making terroristic threats, reckless driving, aggressive driving, and obstruction of a law enforcement officer after Rose and Donaldson allegedly used excessive force to subdue Marrow while responding to a road rage call on Dec. 2, 2017.

Marrow has said that two white men threw a cup of hot coffee at his truck and called him a racial epithet.

Video of the arrest shows Marrow telling the officers he’s not resisting, then the officers forcing him to the ground, with Marrow repeating “I can’t breathe,” then apparently losing consciousness.

Police searched Marrow, who had a cellphone but no gun in his possession.

On the night of the arrest, Henry County Commissioner Bruce Holmes forwarded an e-mail and copy of the video, from an unnamed person who claimed to be a friend of Marrow, to HCPD and asked for an investigation.

“This assault and cover up happened with the full knowledge of law enforcement and elected officials and Desmond Marrow sat for five months as a felon, while Officer Rose continued representing Henry County, Major Ireland was promoted to deputy chief and Deputy Chief Amerman was promoted to chief,” the suit alleges. “This abuse of Mr. Marrow was not a rogue act by defendants Rose and Donaldson, but an intentional cover up and attempt to bury the truth by numerous county officials.”

Police conducted an internal affairs investigation immediately after the incident. According to the IA report, video of the incident showed “Mr. Marrow actively resisting and failing to comply with the officers’ instructions,” and showed “that the officers were professional and conducted themselves within policy guidelines.”

A second internal affairs investigation was conducted in April after the video became public. Rose was subsequently fired, and felony obstruction and terroristic threats charges against Marrow were dropped. Officer Donaldson was exonerated.

The suit accuses the county, Rose and Donaldson of negligence; Rose and Donaldson of assault and battery; Ireland and Amerman of negligent training, employment, supervision and retention; and Amerman, Ireland, Hobson-Matthews and Wood of negligence, violation of oath of office, false statements and writings and concealment of facts, and false swearing.

Rose and Donaldson are also accused of violating Marrow’s Fourth Amendment rights.

The suit further alleges that Henry County, Amerman, McBrayer, Ireland, Hobson-Matthews and Wood engaged in civil conspiracy, and seeks punitive damages.

The civil complaint filed in state court Monday alleges that “Former chief McBrayer, then Deputy Chief Mark Amerman and then Major Mike Ireland all created and signed off on the false 12/7/17 Internal Affairs Official Report, which hid the evidence of Officer Rose purposely hiding his assault and using excessive force.” The complaint alleges their actions violated Henry County Police Department policy on fair and impartial investigations and truthfulness, as well as Georgia law prohibiting false statements and writings and concealment of facts.

In addition, the complaint alleges that Hobson-Matthews and Wood “acted as liaisons between the police department investigation and the full board of directors [sic],” and thus knew of the differences between the Dec. 7, 2017 and May 4, 2018 Internal Affairs reports.

Attorney Stewart told the Henry Herald, “The entire county board of commissioners, the county manager knew about it,” adding that numerous emails indicated concern about not wanting protests. “Only one county commissioner, Holmes, said something is not right. So it was a cover up.”

Boyd, who said she has been a citizen of Henry County for 15 years, added, “This is a clear case of police brutality. We are demanding that Commission Chair Woods resign, also that Deputy Chief Ireland and Chief Amerman resign. They have to hold themselves responsible. We are not safe with leadership that will cover up such an egregious act of police brutality.”

When asked to comment on the case, McBrayer said, “I wouldn’t have any comment whatsoever. I don’t think it would be appropriate to comment on any litigation pending in court.”

In an email copied to Amerman and Capt. Joey Smith, Robinson told the Henry Herald, “[P]lease know it is the practice of Henry County not to comment on pending or ongoing litigation. However, once officials review the recently filed complaint, an appropriate response will be filed with the court.”

Requests for comment from the other parties named in the suit were not answered by press time.

The second internal affairs investigation was apparently initiated after the Police Department received an inquiry about Marrow’s arrest from attorneys for ACCG Insurance, which covers the county. Amerman subsequently authorized a review of the arrest “due to recently discovered [dashcam] audio and comments made by Officer Rose, which could show an intentional use of unnecessary force applied during the arrest,” according to the complaint.

The second report is more detailed and includes Rose’s April 18 internal affairs interview by Smith, citing “notable events from the interview,” including one in which Smith asked, “Upon review of your patrol car dashcam you and another officer (Donaldson) are standing at the rear of your patrol car and at approximately 43:00 you say something to the effect of… ‘I’m not putting it in there but I choked that (expletive).’ Did you know that your body microphone was activated and recording?”

According to the report, Rose answered, “No, I didn’t, well, I mean I knew that I had turned my lights on… . I guess the right answer is I knew but didn’t think about the fact that it was on.”

Rose said his comment “was made ‘during a moment of bravado’ and that he did not intentionally choke suspect Marrow.”

Smith asked Donaldson why Marrow was thrown to the ground. Donaldson answered, “The ground is a great tool for leverage. It does not move when it is being pushed as the vehicle was doing.”

When asked why he had not included the detail of Rose choking Marrow in his report, Donaldson “explained that he was focused on searching his (Marrow’s) waist and pockets where his attention was and he did not see the hand and the throat but did hear the gaging [sic] noises and I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

On May 2, Stewart notified the commissioners, Amerman and Hobson-Matthews that Marrow was planning to file an excessive-force suit for $5 million, and that his client had sustained head, left shoulder, cervical and lumbar injuries, facial trauma, and “loss of enjoyment of life.”

Marrow has set up a GoFundMe page, “to help pay for my doctors bills, attorney fees, and to help rebuild my gym that i lost because of this false arrest, to train the hundreds of kids I have lost because of this traumatic event.”

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