Would jury convict officer in YouTube video? Some say no

By Christy Hutchings - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - By now many have seen the YouTube video that was posted online after an encounter between a Savannah-Chatham Metro police officer and several people on Broughton Street over the St. Patrick's Day weekend.

A lot of people are upset over the amount of force the officer used to take a female into custody. The video shows him hitting her with a baton, pepper spraying her, then grabbing her by the back of the belt and throwing her to the ground.

Police haven't released the initial report from Sunday morning, which would include who all was there, and what their involvement was, and who was arrested for what. So far that information is not coming from police.

WTOC has learned through the courts which individuals were involved. They've been identified as 25-year-old Benjamin Mahaffey, 26-year-old Misaela Alquiciria, and 22-year-old Patricia Shields. The video shows Shields getting pepper sprayed and thrown to the ground. All three have since bonded out of jail and are back in South Carolina, where they live.

Now their case is in the courts, but even if the officer is found to have used excessive force some don't think a jury will find him guilty.

"If I were looking at that as a juror, I would say that girl is out of control," said defense attorney Doug Andrews. "I wouldn't have much sympathy for her."

Andrews is no stranger to people coming to his office filing excessive force complaints against police officers. But he said that in this case, from just the video alone, he doesn't see police brutality. "If that person is going to resort to that kind of violence, then they can expect some stern handing by police," said Andrews.

Andrews admits he can see what the uproar is all about, the video looks bad, but says we're not looking at it through the eyes of law enforcement.

"As you look at it, it looks to me equally possible that the officer was going to allow the girl he had by the belt in the back, let her down more gently. I think she just fell because he had her with one hand on the belt, so I don't think he slammed her," said Andrews. "You could look at it as a parent and say, 'Why did they slam her face on the ground?' But if you watch it in very slow motion, her face doesn't hit the ground, thankfully."

The officer in the video is Cpl. Aaron McKie. He has since been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the SCMPD internal affairs investigation.

Andrews said having been around this area for more than 20 years and dealing with officers regularly, he has come to know a lot of them. "I've come to know the ones who use excessive force and I've never heard this name, never heard a client complain about him and again I think his character and reputation is important to consider that he's not just willy nilly, beating people up."

But many others, especially those who witnessed the event don't agree. They feel the officer went too far and should be punished, so it's ultimately going to be up to the investigators to determine if too much forced was used.

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