AFRICANGLOBE – A white police officer in Savannah, Georgia, tased and handcuffed a man during a warrant check ‒ except they got the wrong man. Now competing videos of the incident have led to a war of words between the police department and a defense lawyer over who’s at fault.
Patrick Mumford, 24, was sitting in a driveway on the evening of February 1 when three Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department (SCMPD) officers approached him. They had been dispatched to the area to locate an individual at a specific address who had allegedly been in possession of a cell phone involved in a robbery in California. On the way to the call, the officers did a warrant check on the name Michael Clay, and learned there was an active warrant out for the suspect in Cobb County, Georgia.
“What’s your name, man?” an unidentified SCMPD officer asks in videos released by both sides.
“Okay… Patrick,” Mumford responds.
Less than a minute after police arrive on the scene, Mumford was tased twice and handcuffed.
Those are the facts of the case that both sides agree upon. From there, the stories diverge.
In Mumford’s version of events, based on a video released by the Claiborne Firm, the officers never asked him for identification to verify whether or not he was Clay. They immediately order him to stand and put his hands on the car. He then tries to sit back down in the passenger seat, repeatedly asking what he did and what is happening.
“You got a warrant, dude, you got a warrant…” an officer says as he handcuffs Mumford, who says he just returned from a visit with his probation officer. A struggle ensues, and he is tased twice.
It was only then that the officers removed Mumford’s wallet and looked at his ID.
“Patrick tells them the truth, and they never ask him for his ID. They assume he’s lying and falsely arrest him,” Will Claiborne, the defense attorney who released the video, told reporters. “Young Black men who reach for their back pocket to get their wallets have bad things happen to them, so what was Patrick supposed to do?”
On Thursday, SCMPD released the unedited videos from three different officers’ body cameras.
Police Chief Joseph H. Lumpkin Sr. called the edited version released by the Claiborne Firm “misleading” and “apparently intended to be inflammatory.”
“The video released by the defense attorney was edited and omits significant portions wherein a relative asks the individual to be cooperative,” Lumpkin said in a statement. “The relative on the video also suggests the arrestee is similar in appearance to the wanted person, who purportedly lived at that residence. The edited video also omits other calm interactions the officers had with relatives and the arrestee.”
Mumford was “uncooperative and although he presented a first name at some point, it was unclear to the officers,” the chief said, noting that Mumford “resembled the wanted person.”
In the videos, an officer can be heard telling bystanders that Mumford and Clay “look a lot… a good bit alike, ma’am. It’s not far off.”
Clay’s mother, who was on the scene, allegedly admitted that the two men look similar, according to the police report, as cited by the Daily Beast.
The three half-hour videos were released to the public in response to the Claiborne Firm’s video, and in the interest of transparency, Lumpkin said.
“We are reviewing the actions and decisions which our officers made in the current case. In doing so, we must consider all the facts and not rush to unfair judgements based on highly edited videos which are apparently intended to mislead and inflame the public against the officers involved,” he added.
Claiborne does not officially represent Mumford, but told WJCL that he is speaking as an advocate for him. The lawyer maintains that the officers, not Mumford, were the aggressors in the incident.
“We let the video speak for itself,” Claiborne said. “These two gentlemen don’t look anything like each other. Patrick was minding his own business, sitting in a car that he owns, in a driveway of a house where he resides. Law enforcement came upon him, they were immediately aggressive, it speaks for itself.”
The defense attorney blames poor training for the mistake, and hopes the incident can be a teaching moment.
“The problem is Patrick Mumford doesn’t look like Michael Clay, he ain’t Michael Clay, and they roll up on him like he is,”Claiborne told reporters. “When he says his name is Patrick, they don’t believe him.”
“If they had had adequate training, they would have known not all Black men look the same.”