Dekalb County, GA, police officer Jerad Wheeler is accused of kicking a 9-months pregnant woman in the stomach. Wheeler was responding to a domestic disturbance – Raven Dozier’s mother and brother were involved in an argument, and at some point, the police were called.
When Wheeler used a taser on Dozier’s brother, she cried out in response. Taking this as a sign of aggression, Wheeler decided the appropriate course of action was to kick the visibly-pregnant woman in the belly. Then, with no concern for possible injury to Dozier or her child, he dragged her to jail, intending to charge her with obstruction of justice. Guards at the police station sent her to the hospital for treatment, and then refused to book her when she was brought back following a doctor’s visit.
During the hospital visit, doctors noted contusions and spotting. Her attorney states that the child became ill within the womb as a result of the impact. Dozier’s son Levi was born via an emergency c-section two weeks following the incident, and the family reports that the child is doing well. But Wheeler’s actions could have easily had tragic consequences.
Wheeler is defending his actions, claiming that it was dark and Dozier was wearing loose clothing, and that he had no idea she was pregnant. He also claimed that he was using an officially-sanctioned move he was taught at the police academy. Five of Wheeler’s supervisors have also defended him, refusing to follow up on Dozier’s complaint to the department.
This is despite a history of inappropriate force by Wheeler. He’s been the focus of two other questionable incidents. In 2011, he was accused of forcing a 53-year-old woman’s face onto a police vehicle while twisting her arm. Her crime? Showing up at the scene of her daughter’s car accident to check on her young grandchildren.
In January, Wheeler shot and killed a family’s leashed dog inside their garage after showing up to the wrong home on a call. Three other Dekalb county officers have been charged with beating teenage suspects while they were in handcuffs, suggesting that this is a systemic issue within the police force.
While it’s impossible to say exactly what role race played in the assault and subsequent cover-up by Dekalb police, it’s important to note that Raven Dozier is a black woman and Wheeler is a white man in a position of power. With incidents like the Trayvon Martin case fresh in collective memory, it’s important to keep in mind the role that race often plays in the lax enforcement and investigation of crimes against African-Americans.
As a result of the public outcry over the incident, Wheeler is currently under criminal investigation.
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Photo credit: J.K. Califf via Flickr
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