Five Georgia police officers indicted for murder in asphyxiation of festival-goer

Five police officers were indicted on Friday for the 2019 asphyxiation death of a man who attended the Imagine Music Festival in Hampton, Ga.

The officers, identified as Robert Butera, Quinton Phillips, Marcus Stroud, Gregory Bowlden and Mason Lewis, were indicted on murder charges related to the death of 24-year-old Fernando Rodriguez, according to NBC News.

After leaving the music festival, Rodriguez was reportedly walking naked near the Atlanta Motor Speedway when he was confronted by a group of officers. According to NBC, which cited the Henry County District Attorney's Office and edited body-camera footage, the officers used a stun gun against Rodriguez and pressed him to the ground while he was handcuffed and shackled.

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They stunned Rodriguez with their tasers more than a dozen times, according to WGCL-TV, a CBS affiliate based in Atlanta, Ga., and, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, knelt on top of him on the road for nearly ten minutes.

Rodriguez died in the hospital days later. The state medical examiner ruled his death homicide by asphyxiation.

A grand jury heard two days of testimony before returning the indictment. Each officer was formally charged with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault. They were also charged with one count of violation of oath office. 

"Fernando’s family has been patiently waiting for justice in this case and they are very glad to see that the process is now moving forward," Page A. Pate, an attorney for Rodriguez's family, said in a statement, according to NBC.  "We are especially grateful that the officers have all been charged with murder and we think the charges fit the crime."

Three of the officers resigned from the Hampton Police Department following the confrontation with Rodriguez, according to NBC, which cited Hampton City Manager Alex Cohilas. Stroud resigned just weeks afterward, on Oct. 16, 2019. Bowlden and Lewis also resigned, though not until Aug. 5 of this year.

Per the Journal-Constitution, the other two officers, who serve on the Henry County force, were still working as police as of May 2021.

Arrest warrants for the officers will likely be issued next week.