COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – The president of the Columbus NAACP chapter says Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mark Jones will pursue legal action against Columbus police officers involved in the 2017 death of Hector Arreola.
Chapter president Wane Hailes conveyed Jones’ message during a morning press conference on Feb. 12, 2021. Hailes also said Jones believes the officers should be arrested and charged with aggravated assault and murder and that Jones plans to take these charges to a grand jury as soon as possible.
Hailes compared Arreola’s death to that of George Floyd, whose 2019 death in police custody sparked nation-wide protests, adding that this is the time for Arreola’s story to be heard and change to come in Columbus.
“I think around the country some steps have been taken we need to find out what they’re doing here in Columbus Georgia,” said Hailes. “So that’s going to be a conversation with the Mayor who is the public safety’s director, and Freddie Blackmon who is now the chief of police and also Greg countrymen who is the new sheriff.”
The press conference was led by Hailes. He was flanked by Arreola’s father, a retired Army sergeant major, and Arreola’s sister.
Not only did the two parties call for reform and justice, but they shared the debut of a reenactment of the 2017 incident that took Arreola’s life. The film made by Trilogy Productions brought about intense emotions from Arreola’s sister who sat beside NAACP president.
“We shouldn’t have to fight four years–four years, to get action. That’s insane,” said Rodrigo, Arreola’s father. “No one should ever have to fight that hard to get their story heard.”
According to the GBI, Columbus Police responded to a call on Moss Drive around 5 a.m. on Jan. 9, 2017. Police said there was a struggle, after which Arreola was taken to Midtown Medical Center (now Piedmont Columbus Regional). Arreola died at the hospital the next day.
The Arreola family says they hope speaking out will change the community for the better and save another family from going through the same experience.
“…We’re hopeful that there’s gonna be some change, if this is told, if his voice is heard, and his story is told. Because this could happen to anyone. And god forbid that it happens to someone else,” said Patricia Ragan, Arreola’s sister. “And our mission too, is to, you know we don’t want to see that next person, we don’t want to see that next family going through what we are going through. The pain that we live with every single day.”
The officers involved in Arreola’s death are still on duty. The Columbus Police Department declined to comment on the on going investigation. News 3 also reached out to District Attorney Mark Jones who has yet to comment.
The entire raw interview with Arreola’s family can be found below: