In the latest evidence that police reform is sorely needed, a defense lawyer in Georgia says his client was detained by cops while he was having a mental health crisis when they sicced a dog on the unarmed, handcuffed Black man, resulting in gruesome injuries.
And there is video evidence to back up his claims.
This past Sunday, Travis Moya “was having a mental health crisis and awaiting an ambulance” at his home in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, according to his lawyer, L. Chris Stewart. But when the police showed up, “A K-9 was set loose” and attacked Moya, who Stewart said “was unarmed, non violent, and was not resisting arrest.”
Stewart, who was one of the lawyers involved with securing justice for George Floyd‘s murder, called the incident “horrific and unjustified” and on Thursday stated his intent to sue the Alpharetta Police Department. He posted an explicit video from the encounter that was apparently filmed by someone inside Moya’s home and another showing Moya’s wounds.
Stewart told local news outlet WSB-TV that Moya couldn’t defend himself against the three police officers who tackled him to the ground and the other officer who allowed the police dog to attack him.
“He couldn’t move, he couldn’t kick. He couldn’t fight the dog off,” Stewart said. “He had to lay there while the dog ripped him apart.”
Adding insult to literal injury, Moya was arrested and charged with a felony for obstructing the police.
“There was no reason for him to even be detained or arrested. But instead of an ambulance showing up, eight officers showed up,” attorney Gerald Griggs told WSB-TV.
Stewart and Griggs called for the Alpharetta Police Department to release unedited bodycam footage from the incident and demanded the officers involved to be fired, arrested and charged for their roles in the police violence.
The Alpharetta Police Department said an investigation into the incident was underway:
“At this time, no complaint has been filed in relation to this matter, however per our policies, a use of force investigation is being conducted in this matter, as is performed for any instance of a use of force incident by one of our Officers.”
Moya is now among those on a growing list of Black men suffering from mental illness and injured by police who failed to employ de-escalation techniques. Luckily, Moya was not killed, an outcome that has become increasingly prevalent with police responses to mental health crises.
And in October in Philadelphia, Walter Wallace Jr., who was said to have suffered from mental illness, was killed on a street as his mother begged police not to shoot him.
A provision in April’s COVID-19 relief bill set aside $1 billion over 10 years to help states establish mobile crisis units as an alternative to calling the police during mental health crises.
An estimated 25% of the people killed by police involved severe mental health issues.
Having a crisis team in place may have prevented Moya’s treatment in Alpharetta and certainly could have saved the life of Marvin Scott, who was arrested in March in Texas and later died in custody at the Collin County Detention Facility.
Scott was noticeably distressed and displaying evidence of having a mental health crisis at the time of his arrest, which should have prompted responding officers to take him for medical observation. But the Dallas Observer reported Scott was brutalized by officers when he became agitated.
This is America.