Alexia Christian: Shot 10 times by Atlanta police
Alexia Christian was a 26-year-old mother who was still young at heart. A "wild child," according to her mother. But this night, in downtown Atlanta, she had run into some trouble. She was in the back of an Atlanta Police Department squad car and two officers, both African-American, were detaining her.
Minutes earlier they had found her in the back of a stolen Ford F-150 truck. It was April 30, 2015.
On October 4, 2016, the Fulton County District Attorney released part of the dashcam video from that fatal shooting. Only the front of the patrol car is visible in the newly released footage.
During a news conference Tuesday by Fulton DA, he said that a 911 dispatcher was disciplined after it was discovered that they didn't tell officers that a gun had been reported to be inside the stolen truck, according to Fox 5 Atlanta.
This past summer, the 14-month saga that began then finally ended when the Atlanta district attorney announced that he will not seek charges for the officers who detained and killed Alexia Christian. In a statement obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, DA Paul Howard admitted that Christian's arrest “revealed loopholes in the (standard operating procedures), which did not require Atlanta police officers to video back-seat incidents like the Christian shooting.”
Those loopholes are what caused Atlanta residents -- and much of the nation -- to doubt the official police record of the Christian shooting, which contains unlikely occurrences and some would say downright uncanny instances.
According to the police account, uttered by Atlanta Police Chief George Turner at the time, Christian “was fully handcuffed, both [hands] to the rear, at the time as they walked her down to the location and placed her in the rear of the patrol car,” he told reporters days after the shooting, as reported in The Guardian.
Atlanta police usually have a video recorder in the back seat of squad cars to capture the suspect's every move. This time it was turned off for some reason. Also, downtown Atlanta is full of surveillance cameras, yet APD refused to release any footage of the incident.
In any event, “Something happened that she was able to remove one of her hands out of the handcuff,” Turner said, but what happened next has puzzled law enforcement experts, baffled the community and astonished her family and friends.
According to police, Christian somehow maneuvered one of her hands out of the handcuffs, "produced" a .380 pistol -- which had to be with her when she was in the back of an APD patrol car -- and fired three shots at the two detaining police officers. She narrowly missed one of them, but now she had to die.
The officers jumped out of their squad car in commando mode, shooting Christian 10 times. She died on the way to nearby Grady Hospital.
"It was clear to us the officers did not search her prior to putting her into the back of the car," Turner told Atlanta media. He said APD protocol dictated that a woman officer had to be called to the scene to properly pat down and search a female suspect. The two officers, Turner admitted, were not finished searching Christian when they decided to restrain her.
In the days after her death, police released to the media all the previous contacts they've had with Christian: Marijuana charge, shoplifting and even thrice for auto theft.
Still, her family wanted to know why APD decided they would execute a death sentence on her before she had her rightful day in court.
“She has a criminal history, yeah, but most of us do,” Felicia Christian, the victim's mother, told WGCL in Atlanta. “I have one myself. But it’s not nothing that will cost her her life. She should have been in jail if she broke the law, that’s what jails are for. I shouldn’t be making funeral arrangements for her.”
The victim's sister, Ramada Christian even went in front of the Atlanta Citizen Review Board, a panel made up of community members who monitor police conduct, to demand that the APD release any video they had related to the shooting.
“Who says she shot first?” Ramada said, according to WABE. “Who knows this? How do they know? No one has actually said, ‘I saw it with my own eyes.’”
The victim's grandfather questioned how police could have bungled a routine arrest, one that cost the life of her granddaughter.
“She wasn’t supposed to be gunned down like that,” Lucius Christian told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That was very ugly. They were supposed to have searched her. She didn’t even weigh 100 pounds. You can’t see a gun on a 100-pound person? It shouldn’t have never happened.”
“She shouldn’t have, if she did,” he said when asked whether his granddaughter had a gun, according to the AJC. “If she did, it was their fault. It wasn’t hers. She was in city police custody. The minute they put handcuffs on her, the minute she entered the back seat of that police car, she was in police custody.”
The police death deepened the divide between the community and the APD, who was still trying to recoup its image after the Kathryn Johnston debacle years earlier, in which an elderly grandmother' was killed by police when her home was mistakenly raided by officers and shot up.
"I don't know the truth of what happened. I just know that my daughter was viciously gunned down, you know, like she was a hardened criminal," her mother said, according to WGCL.
In January, the APD turned the case over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations but not without intense pressure to do so from law enforcement watchdogs.
Atlanta-based activist Joe Beasley, southern regional director of the Rainbow/Push Coalition, said the APD had a duty to show transparency by inviting in outside investigators to take a look at the case, something they initially chose not to do.
“They made mistakes,” Beasley told The Guardian. “The woman was not searched. She would be alive now. The children would still have a mother. A mother would still have a daughter. It’s a human tragedy. They need to be transparent.”
But the APD insisted that they acted within law enforcement protocols and no outside assistance was needed. In news conferences they stressed that the two detaining officers were in fact heroes who had narrowly cheated death themselves and had to respond with lethal force.
"Both of these officers missed being killed by an inch on both sides," APD Deputy Chief Darryl Tolleson said, according to Creative Loafing. "One [bullet] hit a piece of metal right behind the officer where the plexiglass is mounted. The other one went through the plexiglass out the left front windshield. It's a miracle both officers are alive."