Mayor, Community activists, speak on GBI arrest of CPD officer


COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested a Columbus Police Officer after allegations of use of excessive force.

On Friday, the GBI arrested Officer Clayton Watkins, 35, and charged him with Battery and Violation of Oath of Office following an investigation.

In June, CPD requested the GBI investigate allegations against Watkins stemming from the October 2019 arrest of Donnell Russell, 43.

According to GBI officials, during the course of the investigation, it was determined that on October 18, 2019, Watkins and a trainee officer initiated a stop of Russell and another individual who were walking in the middle of the road on Wade Street in Columbus. Pedestrians walking in the road is a violation of a Columbus city ordinance. During the stop, Russell refused to comply when told by Watkins multiple times to open his left hand which appeared to be concealing an item.

“Open your hand! Open it!” yells Officer Watkins. “Tell them we got one resisting,” Watkins yells at the trainee. “I ain’t got nothing,” Russell screams while pinned to the ground.

Watkins then placed Russell in handcuffs and Russell continued to refuse to open his hand.

According to GBI officials, body camera footage shows Watkins subsequently hitting Russell multiple times in his side, pointing a Taser at him, throwing him to the ground and hitting him again. It was determined that Russell was concealing a small amount of suspected marijuana in his hand.

Watkins arrested Russell and charged him with obstruction of an officer and violation of a city ordinance. He filed a complaint against the Columbus Police Department for excessive force in October 2019.

The leaked body cam video was posted to Facebook by community activist Gadget Jackson.

“My initial reason for posting the video was basically. I felt it was a need for somebody to say something and to stand up for something. I wish someone would stand up for me on certain levels when it comes to police brutality, and police injustice out here in the city and police abusing their power,” Jackson told News 3.

The post gained thousands of shares and caught the attention of community activist Justin Allen who also shared it.

“I honestly thought for a time that Columbus doesn’t really have issues with the police department and come to find out we do. I wanted people to be aware that it does happen here and to know that there are people watching. If this sort of thing happened, not even this but any type of abuse by those who are sworn to protect us, we need to know about it make it known to the general public,” Allen says.

The now-viral video was shown to Mayor Skip Henderson, who called on Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren and the city attorney. “As soon as my office heard about the tape, it was the first time I saw it, I went ahead and met with the city attorney and also the chief of police and immediately within 24 hours we asked the chief to forward it on to the GBI.”

The GBI opened the investigation on June 4, one day after the video spread across social media.

Three months later, Watkins was arrested and charged with Battery and Violation of Oath of Office.

“I’m disappointed in the city that it took that Facebook post to be made for us to take action. He’s supposed to be arrested so no kudos for doing your job,” Allen says.

Jackson echoes those same thoughts. “I really couldn’t sit on it. I didn’t feel like it was something that I could just see and not do something about basically. So I went about it the best way that I could by putting it out there.”

The GBI investigation has been completed. GBI officials say the case file will now be submitted to the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution of Watkins. 

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