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Savannah Police Deny Excessive Force Claims, Say Man Was Injured by a Fall During Arrest

The Savannah Police Department is rebutting claims that it used brutal and excessive force against a man whose face appeared battered and bruised in a booking photo late last week.

Savannah police Chief Roy Minter addressed the arrest of 35-year-old Zayd Jackson on Sunday and again on Monday, writing that a review of the incident found that officers had acted “appropriately and professionally during the encounter.”

Zayd Jackson

Savannah Police said Zayd Jackson was injured by a fall when he tried fleeing police during his arrest last week. (Image courtesy of Chatham County Sheriff’s Office)

“SPD has completed a preliminary review of the arrest of Zayd Jackson,” Minter wrote in a tweet. “His family has been advised that the info that’s being reported regarding Jackson’s injuries are NOT consistent with what occurred during his arrest. We will have a formal response for this matter tomorrow.”

Jackson was arrested and booked into the Chatham County Detention Center on Thursday following a traffic stop, according to police. The man’s booking photo shows him with a bloodied and swollen face with several cuts to his lip and cheek area.

A post shared on Facebook also showed Jackson with several injuries, sparking accusations from critics that police had used excessive force.

“On this past Thursday evening my son Z. Jackson was brutalized my two officer of the Savannah police department as a result of being stopped for (according to the officers) a tail light being out,” a Darlene Jackson wrote, adding that officers reported that Jackson fell.

Zayd Jackson

Zayd Jackson, 35, was charged with two counts of obstruction, lack of proof of insurance, driving without tail lights, reckless driving and a felony charge of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, among other charges. (Facebook / video screenshot)

As of Wednesday, the post had been shared over 15,000 times.

“Why would a law abiding citizen with no record or history of any violence, after being pulled over, hand cuffed and arrested upon arrival at Chatham County Jail look like this?” she added.

According to police, a fall is exactly what happened. Authorities said the incident was SPD’s second run-in with Jackson.

A police report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows that officers first stopped Jackson’s Chevy Trailblazer on April 3 for a defective taillight. They said he was able to provide his license and insurance cards, however, the insurance came back as invalid. The responding officer also said he noticed the scent of marijuana coming from Jackson’s car.

“I asked Mr. Jackson if there was anything inside of the vehicle I needed to know about,” according to the report. “He advised me that there was not. I then asked Mr. Jackson if there was any marijuana inside of the vehicle. Mr. Jackson responded by saying, ‘Uh, no. Why would I have marijuana in the car? I just came from visiting my friends. I’m going home.’”

The officer said he ordered Jackson to exit the car, but he refused and rolled up his window. That’s when the officer opened the door and ordered the man out once more. Again, Jackson refused before speeding off, running over two curbs and nearly hitting a patrol car as he tried to flee.

“Officers did not pursue Jackson at that time, but obtained warrants for obstruction, reckless driving, and fleeing and attempting to elude,” the department said.

Police encountered Jackson again on Thursday, May 2, just after 9:30 p.m. after an officer spotted someone driving “aggressively” and changing lanes without a signal. The officer stopped the car and learned that Jackson, who was behind the wheel, had several outstanding warrants.

He was arrested at the scene.

In their report, authorities wrote that “While the officer was waiting for the warrants to be confirmed, Jackson began running from the scene and soon after fell, striking his face on the ground.”

Paramedics were called and Jackson was immediately taken to Memorial Medical Center for treatment. He was booked into jail after being medically cleared by the hospital.

“After reviewing the body camera footage of the incident, I can say confidently that our officers treated Mr. Jackson professionally and courteously during the entire incident,” Minter said in a statement.

“It’s unfortunate that the professionalism of the Savannah Police Department was questioned so quickly from an allegation made on social media,” added. “The Savannah Police Department takes these claims seriously, and if it was determined that officers’ actions were inappropriate, it would have been dealt with swiftly.”

Police have declined to release the body cam footage because it is part of an ongoing investigation.

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