Atlanta, GA — Maggie Thomas was sitting in her car with her 4-year-old daughter earlier this month when she was approached by Sgt. James Hines with the Atlanta Police Department. Thomas had done nothing wrong when Hines yanked her from the car and began beating her in front of her daughter. In a rare move, because Hines’ actions were so egregious, he was fired shortly after the incident—largely due in part to a bystander’s cell phone video.
On May 1, Hines approached Thomas and began questioning her. Having done nothing wrong, Thomas gave the officer her name and noted that he shouldn’t be harassing her.
As ABC 7 reports:
Hines wrote that Thomas became “agitated” and told him, “There shouldn’t be a white officer harassing her” and asked for the name of his supervisor.
He claimed that he gave Thomas the name of his supervisor and left the scene.
“As I got a block or so away I began to wonder why she became so agitated at my mere presence and ran her name,” he wrote.
Hines wrote that a warrant came back on Thomas for failing to appear in court for a speeding ticket.
Hines, according to his report, went back to Thomas’ car and demanded to see her driver’s license and the incident quickly escalated.
He wrote that Thomas refused to cooperate and that when he attempted to take her into custody, a struggled ensued.
As the video shows, Hines rips Thomas from the vehicle and slams her to the ground as her daughter runs away in sheer horror—and all of it over an alleged failure to appear for a speeding ticket.
“I then took Ms. Thomas to the ground and she still refused to give me her right hand. I took out my Taser and drive-stunned her in the back,” Hines wrote in his report. “She then began to comply and I eventually was able to get both hands cuffed.”
He then wrote that as he was taking Thomas to the car, she began struggling with him again and “bent over and bit my right hand.”
“I immediately punched her in the face and she fell to the ground,” Hines wrote.
However, no such bite ever happened and none of Thomas’ actions warranted any such force. The department found no evidence of a bite and it is not seen in the video. So, days later, the department made the right decision and fired him.
“Accordingly, the Chief of Police directed the Office of Professional Standards to immediately begin investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident,” the police statement reads. “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. Subsequently, Sergeant Hines was dismissed from employment on May 17, 2019.”
Days after that, all the false charges brought against Thomas by Hines were all dropped.
“A recommendation has been made to the City Solicitor that consideration be given to the dismissal of the charge against Ms. Thomas,” the police department’s statement reads.
What’s more, Thomas’ attorney, Gerald Griggs says the warrant over the speeding ticket was issued in error, so there never should’ve been a confrontation in the first place. After firing the officer, the police department issued a personal apology to Thomas.
According the 11 Alive, “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.”
While the apology and firing of the cop was certainly welcomed, Griggs pointed out that without the video, this incident would’ve unfolded much differently.
“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.”
“I can’t blame the entire force for one officer’s action, but it does make it difficult to deal with them going forward,” Thomas said. “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.
Indeed, like so many other incidents end, Thomas could’ve been shot or killed. Furthermore, had no video existed, the public would’ve been none the wiser.