Smyrna, GA — Sherman Jackson is an Army veteran who served four years, fighting for his country in Iraq in 2011. But Jackson, like so many other veterans, got a rude awakening when he came home.
Sherman said one of his most traumatic times was when he had to gather the remains of his fellow soldier and friend, David Hickman, who was killed when an IED exploded. Watching his brothers in arms perish on the battlefield was devastating, but not as upsetting as his recent arrest for obstruction of justice — for sitting in his car.
Sherman, who receives complete disability from the Army, having suffered from PTSD, now spends his time hosting an AirB&B property and serving as a volunteer with Atlanta's Meals on Wheels program.
He was visiting his brother in Smyrna, Georgia, whom he was helping move to Atlanta to live with him. Damond Jackson, Sherman's brother, had been experiencing numerous instances of what he considered harassment by police, and Sherman was going to take him to Atlanta, where the two thought they'd be safer.
Damond's experiences with police have left him scarred and suffering from PTSD.
After the two packed up, they started their trip from Smyrna to Atlanta but were hungry, so they planned to eat at a local Zaxby's. But, first, they decided to fill up the tank in Sherman's 2006 BMW 325i.
The first gas pump they tried wasn't working, so a BP employee told them to use another one which was functioning. They circled the pumps and went to the one the employee recommended.
Sherman says his pricey car may have attracted someone's attention, along with the fact the two men had gone to two different pumps — but, whomever it was, stopped an officer and told him the two Black men in the White BMW were "acting suspiciously."
After leaving the BP, they drove across the street to Zaxby's. They parked and were getting ready to go inside. Sherman had been letting his brother drive his car, and said it was only the second time he'd ever done so. Damond was in the driver's seat when police swooped in and blocked their egress from the parking spot.
Because they 'fit the description' of another group of black males, they had just been stopped for 'pumping gas while black.'
Damond started recording right away because he knew photography is not a crime, and he wanted to document the encounter. Officer Michael Brooks approached the car and told them someone at the gas station said there were some "girls in the car."
Damond asked why he was being blocked in by the police cruiser.
"Brooks, I haven't done anything. Nothing!" he said. "I ain't gotta say nothin' bro," he explained. "You got the wrong information from that guy. False report!"
"What have I done wrong," Damond asked.
"I haven't said you've done anything wrong," Brooks answered.
"Am I being detained?" he questioned.
Brooks said he was being detained for his behavior. "If anybody else did this I'd be acting the same way," he said.
Understandably, Damond got angry, but Sherman tried to calm down his brother.
"This is White people area, bro. We ain't supposed to be here," the former soldier explained.
"This shit happens to me all the time, bro!" Damond said.
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"This is the first time I've seen it," Sherman told his brother.
After backup officers arrived to investigate why the two Black men were parking while being Black, Damond attempted, once again, to explain himself to a Smyrna Police Department Sergeant.
"I need a supervisor here. You have to come here. I'm asking you to come here. That is not obstruction. I have done nothing to get arrested for," he implored.
Sergeant Cason approached the car and explained that someone called the police because the complainant said the men were engaged in "some type of suspicious activity."
Damond asked, "What is this investigation about, for pumping gas?"
"Pumping gas is suspcious activity?" he asked again.
Sherman was arrested, first for "obstruction of justice," for failing to show his ID. The former soldier and war veteran explained to the officer that he was aware of his rights and knew that the only reason why he had to show his ID was if he had purchased or was in possession of a firearm, was drinking, or was driving.
"At this point, he was just trying to intimidate me," Sherman said, calling it a "donkey show."
Damond was arrested for "obstruction of justice" and "possession" of less than two grams of marijuana, a misdemeanor.
Sherman, the former soldier who's on full medical disability, did explain to the officer that he was a disabled veteran, as exhibited on his license plate; but, "he didn't care."
"Race had everything to do with it," he said, adding, "I'm pretty sure if I had been a White man or White woman, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have happened at all."
Damond, who's been arrested on many occasions but has never been convicted of any felonies, says most of his charges were for "obstruction" or "disorderly conduct" — and his run-ins with the law have left him traumatized:
"I've been harassed since I turned 18. Most of the time I'm so scared that I'm going to get shot, I don't even reach for my cell phone to record."
While in jail in 2008 — where he spent 3 months, even though later all charges were dropped against him — he says he was tortured for giving out an extra Kool-aid to a fellow inmate.
"The cop put me in a choke-hold. Other cops came and handcuffed me behind my back, shackled me, and beat me when I was in Cobb County jail," he said describing why he's now receiving disability benefits for PTSD.
In the video, one can clearly see Damond was upset, as the footage is shaky from the cell phone being held in his hands. Sherman and Damond are both planning to sue.
"I want people to know police harassment is real," he said. "It's out there. If it doesn't happen to them, they might not think so...but it's happening to Black males with dreadlocks."
"I'm never going back to Cobb County, Georgia," Sherman said, thankful he and his brother eventually made it to Atlanta. Sherman got out of jail a few days ago, after spending 30 hours behind bars for not presenting his identification. Damond spent three days in jail — where he caught the flu and had to be hospitalized.