Patrick Mumford was sitting in a car on February 1, parked on a suburban driveway in Georgia. Suddenly, three police officers from the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department walked up to him and told him he was under arrest. Before the encounter was over, the officers had tased Mumford at least twice — only to find out later, on camera, that they had approached and attacked the wrong black man.
The officers were in fact looking for Michael Clay, who had a warrant out for his arrest. But the officers immediately assumed Mumford was their target, claiming that the men look alike.
The body camera footage, posted by a law firm, is revealing. When police approach, Mumford clearly had no idea what was happening. He told the officers his name, and they repeatedly told him to get up. He asked to see the warrant they claimed they had. They didn’t show it to him. Officers repeatedly warned him that they’d tase him, but he didn’t cooperate, even trying to close the car door to avoid the stun gun. Then police tased and arrested him.
After the initial encounter, police finally see Mumford’s ID and realize, on video, that they have the wrong man. Immediately, the excuses start rolling out: One of the cops claimed that he had asked to see Mumford’s ID. Then he told a resident that he had asked to see ID three times. In the video, he actually never asks for ID before officers tase and arrest Mumford.
Mumford was initially charged with obstruction, but the charges were later dismissed. Still, the events have put him at risk of a violation of his probation (for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense), opening him up to prison time. If that happens, he could be forced to drop out of college and quit his job as a certified collision specialist.
Police claim Mumford reached for the car’s floorboard, but their body camera videos appear to dispute that
The Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department claims, local news station WJCL reported, that the video is highly edited. The department posted body camera footage from each of the three officers to show what they claim is the full story.
In the extended footage, police don’t ask for ID. But they claim that Mumford reached toward the floorboards of the car, which they perceived as a potential threat to their safety, since Mumford may have had a gun. (He didn’t.)
It doesn’t look that way to me. The floorboard is clearly visible in the videos — there’s only a pack of cigarettes, a brush, a phone, and some sort of paper. Although Mumford is definitely not cooperative (he’s visibly scared), he doesn’t seem to reach into the car or toward floorboard, as police claim.
To this end, the story again shows the power of video. Without it, police could have claimed that they approached the car and Mumford immediately acted violently — and a judge or jury could have believed the officers over anyone else. With the video, we know just how absurd the incident was from start to finish.