New and shocking body camera footage shows police officers in Georgia unjustly arresting and threatening to charge a woman just days after they handcuffed and detained her husband for not satisfying their questions about a neighborhood disturbance.
It all started last year on May 26, 2022, when officers with the Covington Police Department were called to investigate a shots fired call in a local neighborhood near Melody Circle.
That footage, which was released to the Atlanta Black Star, shows several officers visiting multiple homes to ask homeowners if they heard possible gunshots in the area. Most told them they heard gunshots but didn’t pinpoint a specific home as the origin of the gunfire.
A responding officer, Officer Joseph Barrett, finally approached Edward and Candance Ballard’s home. He walked over to Edward Ballard, who was outside with his children, to ask him about the gunshots. Barrett told Ballard that a neighbor called police after seeing someone carrying a pistol and assault rifle outside the Ballards’ home and firing a shot.
Ballard told the officer he heard gunshots but didn’t know where they came from.
When Officer Barrett asked for Ballard’s name, Ballard said, “Eddie,” but the officer pressed him for his full name.
“Sir, listen, either you identify yourself to us, or we have to detain you, and we have to figure out who you are,” Officer Barrett is heard saying on the body camera footage.
Georgia law does not require individuals in Ballard’s situation to provide their full names or identification.
After Ballard doesn’t give his full name, Officer Barrett handcuffs him, removes his wallet from his back pocket, and asks another responding officer to check his state identification in the police system.
Moments later, Ballard’s family comes out of their home, and Ballard’s wife, Candance, questions Officer Barrett about why her husband is in handcuffs.
Barrett tells Ms. Ballard, “Because he refused to identify himself.”
When Ms. Ballard explains that it’s not against the law for her husband not to identify himself, the officer tells her that Ballard has to provide a name and date of birth “by law” while police are investigating an incident and speaking to potential witnesses.
Officer Barrett then walks over to his sergeant, who is speaking with someone who appears to be a family member or friend of the Ballards, to explain why Edward Ballard is in handcuffs.
The officer explains the call that police got from dispatchers and the reason for the heavy police presence. The family friend tells the officer that the gunshot wasn’t fired from the Ballards’ home.
Officer Barrett responds with: “We don’t have reason necessarily to believe that it was here, but because this was the house with the description that we were given, that’s why we had reason to get out here.”
The family friend asks the officers to release Ballard, and Officer Barrett walks back over to Ballard to remove the cuffs. None of the officers ever accused Ballard of firing a gun, nor did they find evidence of a crime. Ballard filed a citizen complaint later that day.
“It should have ended there,” Harry Daniels, a nationally renowned civil rights attorney representing the Ballards, said in a statement this week. “Unfortunately, Officer Barrett and the Covington Police Department doubled down after the complaint and made a bad situation much worse.”
Days later, on Memorial Day, May 30, 2022, Officer Barrett and a number of other officers returned to the Ballards’ home with a warrant for Edward Ballard’s arrest on an obstruction charge.
Body camera footage shows police surrounding their home with guns drawn.
Candance Ballard answered the front door and told Officer Barrett her husband wasn’t home. She closes the door after Barrett aggressively attempts to block the door with his foot. They start speaking through the front door about the warrant, and Ballard agrees to come outside to speak with him once she secures her dogs inside.
When she exits the backdoor of her home, another officer points a gun at her and tells her to come to him. When she refuses, that officer tells her she doesn’t have a choice, and he and another officer restrain her and then handcuff her.
They take her to headquarters to question her and threaten to charge her if her husband doesn’t comply and turn himself in for the obstruction charge.
“If there was any crime, the officers could have arrested Edward Ballard on May 26. But there wasn’t, so they didn’t. They had him in handcuffs, and they let him go because he hadn’t done anything wrong,” Daniels said. “But after he files a complaint, they take his wife in front of their kids with their pistols drawn, threaten her with arrest and illegally detain her until he turns himself in for a crime he didn’t commit. In fact, it isn’t even a crime.”
“That’s not a coincidence. That’s a crime, and the police committed it.”
Candance Ballard contacted her husband — who was out at a store when the police arrived at his home that day — from the police station and explained the situation. Mrs. Ballard was held at the station until her husband arrived to turn himself in on the obstruction charge.
Edward Ballard would spend a night in jail on the charge, which remains open more than 15 months after his arrest.