Henry County, GA — A family is devastated and asking for answers after their 24-year-old son was tasered to death by police after leaving a Georgia music festival over the weekend. Fernando Rodriquez had harmed no one and was simply walking down the street when police approached him. Moments later, after three officers simultaneously tasered him, he would be dead.
While the exact details of what led up to the incident are unclear, according to police, they received a call Friday night around 10.00 p.m. about a man walking down the street without clothes on. The man was Rodriquez and he had just left the Imagine Music Festival at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Police claim that when they approached Rodriquez, he would not comply with their demands so they had no other choice but to use force against him. That force came in the form three cops simultaneously tasering Rodriquez until he became unresponsive.
Two officers from the Hampton police department and one officer from the Henry County police department were involved in the incident. Moments after they began tasering him, Rodriquez became unresponsive and he stopped breathing. He was then taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
"Officers ended up tasing him. We had multiple officers tased him. He did go into medical distress. They attempted to respond to that. He was taken to the hospital and later he died as a result of that incident," a police spokesperson said.
One witness said she filmed the interaction and streamed it on her Facebook page according to WSB-TV. The woman is scared of police retaliating against her so she asked to remain anonymous.
"There’s somebody screaming and there’s a lot of police officers," she said. "I think it's just once again police taking their title and abusing it."
The witness said she heard some commotion outside of her house Friday night and that's when she saw the officers tasering Rodriquez. She said the other witnesses to the incident and Rodriquez' family have questioned why the officers all felt the need to deploy their tasers on Rodriquez, especially considering that he was unarmed and posed very little threat.
"His mom actually came to my house and was asking for information," the witness said.
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What's more, the witness also disputed the original police story, claiming that Rodriquez was not naked when police first approached him.
"A lot of people are saying he wasn’t," she said.
In a still shot given to WSB, we can see a pile of what appears to be clothing on the ground.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, they have taken over the investigation into Rodriquez' death. They said that there is police body camera video, which they are reviewing. The GBI is also conducting an autopsy on Rodriquez to determine the exact cause of death. One thing is certain, however, and that is that this young man would likely still be alive had he not run into three of Georgia's finest that fateful night.
Police in Georgia have a tainted past when it comes to taser incidents. In 2017, in a case eerily similar to Rodriquez', three cops in Washington County, Ga. were charged with murder after they surrounded Euree Lee Martin and tasered him to death. Martin was innocent. Despite being unanimously indicted by a grand jury, a judge apparently sympathetic to killer cops quietly dismissed all charges last year. Martin's death was also caught on video.
Before Martin's death, a police officer East Point, Ga. was handed down an unprecedented life sentence for torturing a handcuffed man with his taser, repeatedly, until he died. Gregory Towns died after being tased 14 times in 29 minutes. Two officers repeatedly shocked this man's body for a total of 47 seconds — while unarmed and handcuffed — because he couldn't walk fast enough for their preference.
On November 20th, 2015, sheriff deputies in Coweta County, Ga. were summoned to help subdue a man having a psychotic breakdown. Instead of helping him, they tasered him to death. In October 2016, the Coweta district attorney’s office announced their decision not to press charges against the officers responsible.
The death of 32-year-old Chase Sherman was also captured on video, yet neither of the cops was charged.
According to Amnesty International, between 2001 and 2008, 351 people in the United States died from being shocked by police tasers. Electronic Villiage has documented another 283 taser-related deaths in the United States from 2009-2014. That means there were at least 634 documented taser-related deaths in America between 2001 and 2014.
While we often ask "why didn't that cop use a taser instead of his gun?", it is important to remember that while a person is less likely to die from a taser shock than a gun shot, they are still a weapon, and still often unnecessary and lethal.