The veteran officer under investigation for fatally shooting an unarmed man outside an Atlanta police annex in late January had at least four prior complaints of excessive force over the last decade, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned exclusively.
One of those incidents, which involved Officer Yasin Abdulahad and three other APD officers, resulted in the hospitalization of a suspect for seven days. Another citizen, Travis Denson, filed a complaint in 2007 accusing Abdulahad of seizing his keys, handcuffing him and searching his vehicle without a warrant, according to the officer’s personnel file.
“The warning signs were there,” said attorney Chris Stewart, who represents the family of Deaundre Phillips, fatally shot by Abdulahad in January outside the police annex on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. “Just like with Deaundre Phillips, (Abdulahad) demands to search this kid’s car and finds nothing.”
“It’s a sure sign of someone who took the law into his own hands over and over again,” Stewart said.
Phillips was sitting in the passenger seat of a friend’s car when confronted by Abdulahad, who said he approached the vehicle after smelling “an odor of marijuana.” But Stewart said Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents told him that while there was a small amount of pot in the car, it had not been lit.
Subsequent surveillance video also contradicted statements attributed to Abdulahad, who was in plain clothes at the time of the shooting. It showed the officer was fully inside the car when it disappears from view of the annex parking lot. Abdulahad, an 11-year veteran of the force, told the GBI that he was hanging halfway out of the vehicle when he fired his gun, striking Phillips once in the head.
The officer is currently back to work for APD, though officials say investigations into the Phillips shooting and another incident last fall at a nightclub where Abdulahad was providing off-duty security are still under investigation.
In the 2007 incident, Denson was sitting in his car on a property where he paid rent when approached by Abdulahad, who accused him of loitering, according to a report contained in the officer’s file. Abdulahad asked Denson for permission to search his car, which he denied.
“Is it APD policy to treat any productive citizens in the community as criminals?” Denson wrote in a letter sent to then-APD Chief Richard Pennington, among others. “Are you (resorting) to terroristic tactics?”
Asked — nearly two years later — by internal affairs if he remembered searching the vehicle for drugs, Abdulahad said he was, “Not sure.”
Denson’s accusations were not sustained, meaning the investigation did not develop sufficient evidence to “prove or disprove” the allegations.
A few months after that incident, Abdulahad was accused, along with three other officers, of kicking and stomping a man who ended up in a coma. Abdulahad admitted striking the suspect in the back of the upper arm in an effort to restrain him. One of the officers involved in that arrest eventually resigned; the allegations against Abdulahad were, once again, not sustained.
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Two other excessive force accusations against Abdulahad, lodged in late 2007 and early 2008, led to no sanctions against the 11-year veteran, who is back at work “in full capacity,” according to APD spokesman Warren Pickard.
His future with the force is not assured, however. Pickard said internal investigations into Abdulahad’s conduct in the Phillips shooting and his role in an alleged beating of a patron at a Midtown bar last October have not been completed.
Anthony Walters, 25, was hospitalized with injuries to his face after an altercation at Bulldogs on Peachtree Street, where Abdulahad was providing security as a side job. Now that he’s been reinstated by APD, Abdulahad is once again able to work off-duty security jobs.
Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields told The AJC there remains “critical DNA analysis missing” in the GBI investigation.
“Additionally, (Fulton County District Attorney Paul) Howard and I briefly discussed the case last week, and I certainly would want to hear his take on the investigation prior to making any employment decision on Investigator Abdulahad,” Shields said.
She said Abdulahad provided a statement to APD Internal Affairs earlier this year.
“It is my sincere hope this file can be resolved in the near future,” Shields said.
The decision on whether criminal charges against Abdulahad are warranted rests with Howard.
“The community would really like to see some action taken here,”said Stewart, the attorney for Deaundre Phillips’ family. “I don’t think any officer thinks what Abdulahad did was proper.”