COVINGTON — Allegations of excessive use of force in the arrest of Breonna Bell, a 26-year-old Covington woman, have stirred controversy in the Covington community and beyond after a video of her apprehension was circulated on social media.
Bell was arrested May 9 in the Nelson Heights community by the Covington Police Department after she called for an officer to retrieve the keys from inside a locked vehicle. According to the CPD, it was known to officers that Bell had outstanding warrants for probation violation in both Covington and Gwinnett County.
Bell, who was holding her 8-month-old son, allegedly resisted the officer’s attempts to take her into custody. The officer ultimately forced her to the ground before he could handcuff her.
On Tuesday morning, Gerald Rose, founder of New Order National Human Rights Organization, Gene Wills, member of East Metro for Social Justice, Archie Shepard, founder of Newton County’s National Action Network, J.C. Henderson, Newton County commissioner and Bell’s family members hosted a press conference outside the Covington Police Department headquarters.
“I’m not saying all police are bad, but there are some bad apples,” said Rose.
The original Facebook video of the incident captured only a few seconds of the altercation between Bell and the police officer, showing Bell face down on the pavement. Her pants had fallen to her ankles.
“I just have to ask, what if this was your sister or your daughter,” said Henderson. “Is this how you would want her to be treated?”
The officer’s body cam video footage showed the officer’s initial attempts to take Bell into custody and her efforts to resist. Bell was holding her son in her arms as police struggled to pull her out of the front passenger seat of witness Jazmin Stephens’ car.
“As I attempted to remove (Bell) from the car I made sure not to grab the arm holding the baby,” said the responding officer in a report to news media. “As she sat down in the car, the baby fell from her arm due to her actions, resisting my verbal commands while attempting to get away from me.”
Body camera footage showed the moment the child fell. The officer grabbed at Bell’s right arm while she held the boy with the crook of her left arm.
“The officer was attempting to get her to release the child to an aunt sitting in the car, but she did not want to do that,” CPD Capt. Ken Malcom said in media interviews.
According to the CPD, Bell’s friend took the baby from her while Bell attempted to close the car door with the officer standing in the doorway. Police said Bell then attempted to exit the vehicle and push the officer away.
Once Bell was out of the car, video showed Bell’s pants fall. The officer continued instruct Bell to “give up” and place her hands behind her back, according to the CPD, but she continued to struggle. At that point, police say she was forced to the ground and handcuffed with the assistance of a backup officer.
Bell was checked by EMS before being transported to jail.
“It is safe to say that the situation could have been handled better, on both parts,” said Rose on Tuesday. “But what caught my attention, was the child ... this baby could’ve gotten really hurt. Situations like this have an effect on the younger generation, and we cannot let it happen again. Period ... This is not just a black thing, as you can see we have all types of people here (pointing to the crowd behind him), but if she were a white woman, it would’ve been a different ball game.”
After the conference, Capt. Malcom invited Rose and other community members inside to review the footage of the incident.
Bell has been charged with obstructing an officer, probation violation and cruelty to children.
The officer involved in the incident remains on the job.
“Looking into the video and talking to those present the officer did not violate policy,” said Malcom.