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Ga. officer seen tasing, punching woman during speeding ticket warrant arrest fired

Sgt. James Hines was dismissed from duty by Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields on May 17.

ATLANTA — Atlanta Police confirm the officer seen on video tasing and punching a woman in front of her daughter over a warrant for a speeding ticket has been fired from the force. 

According to a spokesperson for the department, Sgt. James Hines was dismissed from duty by Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields on May 17.

Credit: Atlanta Police Department
Sgt. James Hines

Police said they were made aware of the accusations of improper use of force on May 10, nine days after the violent arrest of Maggie Thomas. The confrontation between her and an officer over an outstanding arrest warrant for a speeding ticket was recorded and subsequently went viral.

WATCH THE ENTIRE VIDEO

In the video released by Griggs, Thomas' little girl can be seen running frantically and screaming as the officer laid on top of her mother.

“Are you trying to kill me?” Thomas can be heard saying in the video as the officer sat on top of her, trying to restrain her.

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The video shows the officer tase Thomas more than once as he tries to restrain her and put her inside the patrol car. He can also be seen punching Thomas in the face as she is handcuffed. The officer claimed in a police report Thomas bit him, but no evidence of bite marks was ever found.

Thomas was charged with disorderly conduct physical obstruction. She had a swollen left eye and was treated by medical staff. She was taken to Atlanta City Jail. 

Credit: Fulton County Jail
Maggie Malika Thomas was arrested after she became combative with an Atlanta Police officer outside her apartment complex. She was tased and punched after failing to compy.

On Monday, Thomas and Griggs spoke from outside her apartment, where the incident happened, to announce that they met with Chief Shields. Griggs said Shields watched the video of the encounter and apologized to Thomas and her daughter for what happened. 

Tuesday, the department confirmed they were recommending charges be dropped against Thomas. 

"Accordingly, the Chief of Police directed the Office of Professional Standards to immediately begin investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident," the department said in a statement. "Following its investigation, the Office of Professional Standards determined that the force used during the arrest was unnecessary and inconsistent with Atlanta Police Department training."

READ: Police consider dropping charges against woman tased, punched by officer during speeding ticket warrant arrest

Both Griggs and Thomas credited the department for meeting so quickly, and said they are looking forward to having continued dialogue with city leadership.

"I believe the higher level of police are ready for change," Griggs said. "We have to make sure the rank-and-file understand there will be accountability if situations escalate, but we want to work together to see that happen."

Griggs emphasized the role the video played in the situation, adding that community engagement and pressure from outside parities was key in even getting a meeting with city leadership.

"Without the video, there would have been a different outcome," Griggs said. "This tape is quite clear, Ms. Thomas, at no time, did she offer any type of force or violence toward law enforcement."

As for Thomas, she said she never expected to be in a situation where she felt brutalized by police.

"I would have never expected to experience that first-hand," she said. "And then my daughter being there? That makes me very sad."

Thomas said she was pleased by the compassion Shields showed during the meeting, and she doesn't hold the entire department responsible for what happened to her. But, she said she'll probably ever feel secure around police ever again. 

"I can't blame the entire force for one officer's action, but it does make it difficult to deal with them going forward," she admitted. "I'm relieved there's some type of light being shed, but as far as happy, I don't think I'll be that for a while."

"Having my daughter witness that and hearing her cry - I can't really say how it could have turned out, because it could have turned out worse," she added.

Meanwhile, Griggs said there still could be a legal suit coming, but they are still exploring all options, including pushing for policy and legislative changes.

"It's not about being anti-police, it's about being pro-community, and bringing the community together," he concluded.

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