GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. – Body camera footage released Tuesday shows Glynn County police tasing a man with autism who is nonverbal at least six times.
Police said officers were called around 8:30 Saturday night about a man walking in traffic. Callers said the man was carrying a weapon, screaming and hitting himself in the head near the Dollar General store on Stafford Avenue in Brunswick.
A spokesperson said the responding deputies didn’t know the man had autism when they arrived, but even after the man had dropped the metal object in his hand and people in the area shouted about his mental health condition, deputies continued to use force when he ignored calls to get on the ground.
The body camera video starts with officers arriving near a road where Rajon Cherry is walking without a shirt or shoes and carrying some kind of metal object, later described by an officer as a wrench or crowbar.
Cherry begins walking in the officer’s direction as the officer yells “Drop it!”
The officer then fires a Taser at Cherry’s chest and the metal object falls to the ground. The officer then tells him to get on the ground but he continues standing and walking towards the officer.
Another officer arrives and the two attempt to get Cherry on the ground. The second officer then uses his Taser on Cherry again as he screams in pain.
Officers attempt to physically bring him down but once again Cherry gets away before he’s hit with a third round of electricity.
A little more than a minute after the responding officer first saw Cherry, bystanders start shouting about Cherry’s mental health.
“He has mental health! He don’t know!” onlookers are heard saying.
A second officer said he attempted to change the tone of voice in an attempt to deescalate things.
“Get on the ground! We will get you help!” he can be heard saying.
Christine Cauffield of LSF Health said mental health clinicians who respond with law enforcement are the best option to help identify if someone may have a mental health issue and calm the situation.
“The clinician offers hope, offers a reassuring voice and various clinical interventions to help that person feel safe,” Cauffield said.
In a report, an officer said they were concerned about Cherry walking in the roadway near traffic.
The video shows an officer eventually tackling Cherry to the ground and putting him in handcuffs.
Before placing Cherry in a car, the sound of a Taser is heard once again.
Cherry was treated for his injuries at the hospital and released. He is not facing any criminal charges.
The officers involved were treated for minor injuries as a result of the altercation, according to the department.
“I commend the officers for using less-lethal force and their ability to read the terrain as the event unfolded, preventing loss of life or serious injury to anyone involved,” said Chief of Police Jacques Battiste.
This incident is currently under administrative review by the Glynn County Police Department.