An Atlanta police officer has been removed from active duty and is facing charges two years after he tackled a Black man and broke his ankle during a traffic stop.
Tyler Griffin swapped away another cop’s hand during questioning triggering Atlanta Police Officer Donald Vickers ran full speed into Griffin, shoving him to the ground in April 2019. Vickers was indicted on violation of oath by a public officer and aggravated battery charges on Aug. 16. While he was removed from his post, he is still entitled to pay.
Griffin’s ankle is reportedly “useless” after the incident. He filed a lawsuit against Vickers and the Atlanta Police Department in 2020.
“I have to walk on this ankle every day, and the pain I’m experiencing causes me to think about my case. Because it’s not over, it’s like I’m reliving the trauma every single day,” Griffin told 46 News.
The police officers suspected Griffin of drinking and driving when they followed him to a private driveway in April 2019. Another officer’s body-worn camera footage shows two officers ordering Griffin out of the car. One has a gun drawn and pointed at Griffin, who complies. Another places a hand on Griffin’s shoulder, which he quickly brushes off.
“What a minute, hold on. Don’t grab me that,” Griffin said. Before Griffin could finish his sentence, Vickers bum-rushes the man. Griffin screamed upon impact and fell to the ground with the officer on top of him.
The officers made Griffin walk on the ankle even though he let them know he was in pain. They also mocked the man and accused him of faking the injury.
“Come on, man, you’re such a little girl right now,” Vickers said.
Griffin’s attorneys said he had to undergo surgery to install a metal plate and 10 screws in his ankle.
“Oh, God. Oh my God. Help me, please,” Griffin can be heard saying in the video. “Take the pain away!”
Former APD Police Chief Erika Shields said in a deposition published by 11 Alive that Vickers used unnecessary force. Two other high-ranking police officers also agreed: Training instructor Patrick Fite and internal affairs investigator Arthur Nixon.
“I wouldn’t have tackled somebody like that for a swiping of the hand … I would not have tackled,” Nixon said.
Yet Vickers was not punished for excessive force, despite being cited for temporarily cutting off his body camera and failing to render medical aid. Vickers, a 15-year veteran, also had a recorded history of using excessive force, reports show.
In 2017, an eyewitness saw Vickers “ramming [a man] into a door while he was handcuffed” so hard that it made him “lose consciousness.” Internal affairs investigators found that the behavior constituted a two-day suspension, but a supervisor disagreed with the punishment and overturned the suspension.
Seven years before that, a supervisor wrote a letter reversing the internal affairs rulings after someone alleged the officer kicked them in the back. His punishment was also reduced from a five-day suspension to three days after he was arrested for pulling an assault rifle on three men outside Underground Atlanta while off-duty that same year, in 2010. Vickers was never charged.
“We feel like that is overdue, and it shows the court system working and the justice system working, although slower than we would have liked,” Griffin’s attorney Jeb Butler said. “We want to see these police officers and the city of Atlanta held to account. We want to see systemic changes. We want to see an incentive for the city and its officers to stop doing this going forward, so there are no more victims.”