An Atlanta police officer seen kicking a woman lying on the ground in the head is off the street, along with the other officer on the scene at the time. Sgt. Marc Theodule and Officer Bridge Citizen were suspended as the Atlanta Police Department described the actions of Theodule, who kicked the woman, as “unacceptable,” and his suspension is without pay.
“Upon reviewing the video, the actions of the sergeant appear to be unacceptable and we are also concerned with the apparent lack of reaction from another officer present during the incident,” a statement from the APD says.
The video was widely circulated online after it was shared by @atluncensored on its Instagram account Monday.
Although Theodule kicked the woman, who is identified as Ashley Cooley, the department said its commanders were concerned about the “lack of reaction” exhibited by Citizen. Theodule was sworn in in 2009, while Citizen joined the force in 2006.
Cooley’s sister Alexis Johnson said on Tuesday that Cooley was not in her right mind at the time of the attack. “You felt the need to kick a woman. You’re a whole man. You felt the need to kick a woman in her face,” she said at a press conference.
“The decision was made to immediately relieve the sergeant and the officer from duty and place the sergeant on unpaid suspension,” a statement from the department says. “The Atlanta Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS) was directed to open an investigation into the actions of all employees on-scene and their investigation is to be expedited.”
The video shows a handcuffed Cooley lying handcuffed on the ground on her stomach as Theodule and Citizen stand nearby. When Cooley lifted her head and spat on Theodule, he kicked her in the side of the head.
According to authorities, police responded to the scene to reports about a woman pointing a gun at several people on Haygood Avenue in the Peoplestown neighborhood. Cooley was detained when officers “became concerned with the female’s mental health” and requested that she be transported to the hospital for an evaluation. She was not charged with a crime.
Gerald Griggs, vice president of the NAACP’s Atlanta chapter, told Fox 5 he was “shocked and angered” by the video and “at no point should a citizen of Atlanta be kicked in the face while they’re handcuffed.”
Griggs is also an attorney for Cooley, who said she has mental health issues. Cooley believes officers “need more training,” when it comes to handling people with mental health challenges and told WSB she wants the officers charged. Griggs said the city should reach out to Cooley to make sure her mental needs are met.