5:35 p.m.: Writethrough; ADDS photos, Monteria Robinson comments
3:26 p.m.: EDITS throughout for flow; UPDATES with press conference details
Family and supporters of an East Point man shot dead during a U.S. Marshals raid in 2016 are demanding to know why a Clayton County Police officer serving on the task force still works in law enforcement.
Robinson’s mother, Monteria Robinson, who held a press conference in front of CCPD headquarters Thursday afternoon, said she wants Sgt. Kristopher Hutchens fired. Hutchens had been on administrative duty as a safety officer at CCPD’s firing range since he and another police officer were indicted for murder December 8, 2021 in Robinson’s death. Both officers have pleaded not guilty and are presumed innocent until and unless convicted in a court of law.
On Wednesday, CCPD issued a statement that Chief Kevin Roberts reassigned Hutchens to administrative duties off the firing range.
“Recent concerns presented to the Clayton County Board of Commissioners about the administrative assignment of Sgt. K. Hutchens, to the in-service training unit have impacted the Board and the Clayton County Police Department. Chief Kevin Roberts has reconsidered the Sergeant’s assignment, and moved him to a non-training duty effective immediately.”
Six years and several court cases later, Robinson’s family says they are still seeking justice.
Renewed interest in Robinson’s case comes amid open political warfare between suspended Sheriff Victor Hill and BOC Chair Jeffrey Turner and their allies.
After Hutchens had been cleared in the shooting, the U.S. Marshals Service requested him specifically to serve part-time as a trainer. For that to happen, the BOC had to vote on a resolution approving Hutchens’ assignment.
That resolution was part of the August 17, 2021 consent agenda, which passed in an unusual 3-1 vote. The lone dissenter was District 3 Commissioner Felicia Franklin, now squarely in Hill’s camp, who said she was voting against the consent agenda because of issues with the publication of proposed changes to the millage rate.
Resolution 2021-179 authorized CCPS to accept “a part time Training Task Force Officer (TFO) position to be filled by Sergeant Kristopher Hutchens or any subsequent employee as determined by the Chief of Police.” It read in part, “Clayton County Police Department Sergeant Kristopher Hutchens has developed a well-earned reputation as an excellent trainer and the SERFTF [South East Regional Fugitive Task Force] asked to use the Sergeant to fill an existing gap in their training cadre.”
None of the commissioners mentioned Hutchens’ involvement in Robinson’s shooting. Two months later, in October 2021, a Fulton County grand jury indicted Hutchens on felony murder. The warrant was not served until December 2021.
The Clayton Crescent asked Robinson why she thought the BOC voted 3-1 to approve Hutchens’ position with the U.S. Marshal Service.
“Hmmm, that’s a good question,” Robinson replied.
Hutchens and another task force member, Eric Heinze, face felony murder charges in Robinson’s death. In March, both men pleaded not guilty to charges of two counts each of felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, first-degree burglary, making a false statement, and violating an oath by a public officer (Hutchens faces two counts of making false statements.)
Hutchens and other law enforcement officials were serving two felony warrants on Robinson in East Point. According to the AJC’s Shaddi Abusaid and Bill Rankin, Robinson allegedly refused to surrender and fired on police. Fox 5’s Aungelique Proctor reported that Robinson was shot 59 times and suffered 76 gunshot wounds, according to a medical examiner’s report, and died at the scene.
Hutchens’ reassignment comes after TV personality Rashad Richey and community activists called for Hutchens’ firing.
Richey blasted Roberts and the Board of Commissioners on his national platform Tuesday, saying he had spoken with a male BOC member “who told me that, according to his information, this police officer was on administrative duty. Not administrative leave, but administrative duty. And I pressed this particular county commissioner, ‘Well, what does that duty entail? Because according to the other officers who contacted me off record, this individual is working with SWAT and training people inside of that facility or on that shooting range.’ Well, that commissioner could not provide any additional context or clarity.”
Richey also said he had independently confirmed that Hutchens had been “leading training of members of SWAT and is still a member of the SWAT team.” He showed a photo of a shirtless Hutchens, standing next to a kettlebell on what appeared to be an outdoor firing range.
“Now at some point, you have to figure out why you wanted to serve in public office in the first place,” Richey said. “Was it to protect the powerful or was it to represent the people? Was it to become a champion for law enforcement or a champion for public safety? Which one?”
However, Roberts told The Clayton Crescent that he had verbally ordered Hutchens off SWAT last December.
“I removed him from SWAT and [Hutchens] has not been leading SWAT training,” Roberts said. “He has not been leading SWAT training or on the SWAT team as a result of me removing his police powers.”
Roberts also confirmed that the photo of Hutchens had been taken on CCPD’s range, but that Hutchens “was not training anyone” when the photo was taken: “He advised me that he was working out when he believes another officer from another department took that picture.”
Instructor certification suspended
11Alive’s Jon Shirek reported that, two minutes after CCPD announced Hutchens’ reassignment Wednesdsay, Georgia POST updated Hutchens’ file. Hutchens’ instructor certification has been suspended:
His POST record also shows that he is “actively employed” with both CCPD and the U.S. Marshals:
Monteria Robinson told reporters she only learned that Hutchens had been working “as a trainer” when she saw the video. “I felt so disrespected and I immediately called my attorney.”
She said she and her family only found out a few days ago that Hutchens “is currently employed as a SWAT trainer with the Clayton County Police Department. How is that possible and why?”
Outcry comes amid county power struggle
The furor over Robinson’s killing comes amid a battle for control of the Clayton County Police Department and the Board of Commissioners, which multiple sources have told The Clayton Crescent is being led by Hill and his political allies. Hill, who is suspended from his law enforcement duties, is under federal criminal indictment for deprivation of rights under color of law, allegedly for using jailhouse restraint chairs as a form of punishment. His trial is set for October 12.
Hill’s former chief of staff and political consultant, Mitzi Bickers, awaits sentencing on 9 federal felony counts related to Bickers’ contract-steering in the Atlanta City Hall corruption scandal. Bickers was convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery, three counts of money laundering, four counts of wire fraud, and making false statements/falsifying tax returns.
Both Hill’s trial and Bickers’ sentencing were pushed back. Since then, the Clayton County Sheriff’s Department has increased its profile at commission meetings and elsewhere, while Franklin leads a 3-2 majority against Turner on the BOC:
Sins of omission
On Tuesday, Franklin, who has allied herself politically with Hill, had forwarded an allegation from a Michell or Michelle Williams as a mass e-mail to department heads, elected officials, and members of the local news media, asking whether Hutchens was training U.S. Marshals.
Previously, Franklin had sent another allegation from Williams in a series of similar mass e-mailings about Chairman Jeff Turner’s son. Williams claimed that Brandon Turner was a “convicted felon,” despite the fact that the younger Turner had been exonerated under The First Offender Act. The Clayton Crescent pulled his Henry County file, which was stamped with a judge’s exoneration, meaning that Brandon Turner is not a “convicted felon.”
Identical false allegations had been made against District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis by anonymous robocaller urging voters to support his opponent, Janice Scott. Hill and Franklin, along with District 1 Commissioner Alieka Anderson, had actively campaigned for Scott, who lost.
Franklin also intimated that Brandon Turner, who is a civil service employee, could pose a risk to children in Clayton County parks based on Williams’ false claim.
The Clayton Crescent asked Brandon Turner whether he wanted to comment on the matter; he declined through his attorney.
After both the Turner and the Hutchens e-mail chains, The Clayton Crescent e-mailed Franklin, asking why she had not sent any allegations about civil service employees to Human Resources for investigation prior to making those allegations public. Franklin has not responded to those e-mails.
Requests for Williams to comment on the false allegation about Brandon Turner, as well as how she would have knowledge of a U.S. Marshal’s work schedule and assignments and whether she worked in law enforcement, also went unanswered.
On Tuesday, Franklin had forwarded a new allegation from Williams as a mass e-mail to department heads, elected officials, and members of the local news media. It read:
Franklin asked Roberts—in front of other elected officials, department heads, and members of the news media—whether the allegation was true.
Roberts sent this response to Franklin and the e-mail chain:
“Kristopher Hutchens was assigned to the U.S. Marshal’s Regional Fugitive Task Force. During that assignment, he was involved in a shooting incident. The incident was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, resulting in no criminal charges against the officers/agents. Sergeant Hutchens has not been convicted of any wrongdoing. Recently, Sergeant Hutchens was indicted on state charges in Fulton County, as such I provide the following:
“Kristopher Hutchens was assigned to the U.S. Marshal’s Regional Fugitive Task Force. He was involved in a shooting incident with an armed suspect in Atlanta on August 5, 2016 while acting as a Federal law enforcement officer.
“The incident was investigated by federal authorities, as he was acting under the authority of the U.S. Marshal’s Service (USMS) at the time of this incident. The USMS administratively investigated the shooting with no criminal or administrative charges filed.
“Hutchens was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on November 23, 2019, and remained with the Regional Fugitive Task Force. He was transferred back to Uniform Patrol Division in December, 2020.
“The Civil Action by the estate and mother of the deceased in this incident ended in Summary Judgment for the defendant officers in an Order Filed on February 24, 2021.
“In June of 2021, the U.S. Marshal’s Service offered a part-time training position for Sergeant Hutchens. This was the first such request we have received from a Federal Agency asking for a specific employee to serve as a part-time instructor. This illustrates Sergeant Hutchens knowledge, skills and abilities as an instructor. The Board of Commissioners approved this arrangement in Resolution 2021-179 with Sergeant Hutchens providing this training and the Marshal’s Service reimbursing the County for any overtime earned.
“On December 7, 2021, the Department received a copy of the Fulton County warrant for Sergeant Hutchens that was dated October 28, 2021. On December 8, 2021, his police powers were suspended and he was placed on Administrative Duties. Because of his training background, he was assigned to the in-service training unit at the range.
“Sergeant Hutchens and the other defendant in this case filed a motion to remove the Fulton County criminal case to Federal Court as they were acting as Federal Officers at the time of this incident. The hearing on this motion has been set for September 6, 2022.
“Sergeant Hutchens holds a General Instructor’s Certification from Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. He is not a Firearms Instructor. He does indeed assist the Firearms Instructors at the Range as a safety officer but only a certified Firearms Instructor can conduct the qualification courses.
“The totality of circumstances in this case justify my decision to keep Sergeant Hutchens at work in a non-sworn administrative capacity until the case is resolved.”
Franklin is at the center of a political power struggle between suspended Hill and Turner for control of the BOC and the Clayton County Police Department. A series of pseudonymous e-mails from a person calling themselves “John David” alleged that Hill and former BOC consultant/Housing Authority director Wade Starr, Jr. had struck an alliance, resulting in a 3-2 BOC majority under Hill’s influence.
“John David” also claimed that Hill, Starr, and former CCSO Chief of Staff Mitzi Bickers, who was convicted on nine federal bribery and corruption charges related to contractors with Atlanta City Hall and who faces sentencing on September 8, had allegedly “joined forces to get their hands on the taxpayers’ monies. Clayton County is another City of Atlanta, and the Walls of Jericho are about to come tumbling down.”
Several of “John David’s” predictions have come to pass. Since the mass e-mails started, at least three of Hill’s command staff have been assigned to provide security details for Franklin, District 1 Commissioner Alieka Anderson, and District 2 Commissioner Gail Hambrick during BOC meetings.
“John David” had alleged the group had a political hit list that included former county Chief Financial Officer Ramona Bivins, Human Resources Director Pamela Ambles, Roberts, Chief Operating Officer Detrick Stanford, Community Development Director Patrick Ejike, Parks and Recreation Director Troy Hodges, and Chief Strategy Officer Chalonda Smith, who created the county Office of Performance Management.
Since then, Bivins was fired; Franklin, Anderson, and Hambrick have called for multiple investigations into why the county allegedly paid for Bivins’ Ph.D. tuition at Vanderbilt University; the three-member majority has stripped Turner of much of his power, particularly the ability to approve contracts under $74,999 that don’t require a vote; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into alleged “threats” against Turner; and Franklin has repeatedly mass e-mailed reprimands to both Ambles and Roberts, based on incorrect or incomplete allegations from Williams.
Bickers’ former campaign consulting company, Pirouette Companies, which she turned over to her partner before her federal trial, worked on both Anderson’s and Janice Scott’s recent campaigns. Scott ran unsuccessfully against District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis. Hill and Franklin actively campaigned for both Anderson and Scott during the last election.
In her July 21 newsletter to constituents, Franklin spotlighted a company called HG2 Emergency Lighting as “Business of the Month.” The company, which is based in Orlando, FL and has a site in Jonesboro, provides CCSO with emergency lights and “designs, engineers and manufactures lighting for emergency responders, utility and service fleets and construction vehicles.” Franklin posed next to a CCSO patrol car in the shop, as well as a Dekalb County Sheriff’s Office marked SUV and included a link for District 3 constituents to “request a quote”:
County officials have categorically denied rumors of a “scuffle” between CCSO deputies and CCPD officers near Turner’s office, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed that it is looking into “threats” against Turner. Marked CCSO cruisers also have been spotted “posting up” outside Nouveau Restaurant in Jonesboro when members of the local media or county officials were inside.
Now, the Robinson shooting and Hutchens’ indictment has thrown gasoline on that fire.
The raid and the courts
In 2016, U.S. Marshals tried to serve warrants on Robinson for attempted arson and aggravated assault on a police officer at an East Point apartment complex. According to court filings, Robinson allegedly tried to set his home on fire while his mother was inside and had allegedly pointed a gun at two Atlanta police officers.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Robinson, a former Clark Atlanta University football player who had transferred to Tuskeegee, pointed a pistol at officers several times and fired three shots. An autopsy found Robinson had been shot 57 times and suffered 76 bullet wounds. Robinson had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia but had just submitted paperwork for his final school year and had told his coach he would be at practice, his mother said.
“Jamarion had no history of any violent crimes, nor was he a convicted felon,” Monteria Robinson wrote on a GoFundMe page for Robinson’s burial and legal expenses. “Police were aware that Jamarion was recently diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia but made no efforts for a mental health professional or family member to assist in his arrest.”
According to Robinson’s mother, “Jamarion had no history of any violent crimes, nor was he a convicted felon. Bullets that were fired (slugs) were extracted from the inside of the floor of the apartment directly in the location where Jamarion laid, which would suggest the shooter stood directly over Jamarion and fired straight down into his body.”
Robinson’s shooting prompted public outcry as an example of excessive use of force. Several investigations and cases about the shooting have, to date, been resolved in the officers’ favor:
- Investigators with the U.S. Marshals Service found no wrongdoing in the case and no officers were charged.
- In January 2018, Monteria Robinson filed a civil rights lawsuit against Clayton County Police and the other agencies involved. A judge dismissed Clayton County from the suit.
- On December 28, 2018, then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard sued the Department of Justice for not fulfilling an Open Records Request related to the shooting.
- On February 24, 2021, a judge found in favor of the officers.
- On March 9, 2021, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Kurt Erskine certified that the Hutchens and other officers involved in the raid “were acting within the scope of their employment as employees of the United States Government.”
- On March 30, 2021, U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr. found the officers had not broken state law and were entitled to immunity from prosecution. That case is on appeal with the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court. Robinson’s mother is asking for the right to sue over her son’s killing.
Both officers have asked that the case be heard in federal court because they were working as federal agents at the time. A hearing on whether to grant that motion is scheduled for September 6. Hutchens’ and Heinze’s criminal trial in Fulton County Superior Court is scheduled for September 12 at 9 a.m. Assistant District Attorney Sonya Allen is prosecuting the case. Donald F. Samuel is the defense attorney.
The last e-mail in the chain came from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis:
“Thank you for forwarding this information.”
At today’s press conference, Monteria Robinson said she has been in touch, through third parties, with Turner and members of the Clayton County Legislative Delegation.
“If they can’t meet our demands, they will feel the wrath of this county,” Robinson warned. “I’ve done this before.”
Robinson was alluding to former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard. Robinson had accused Howard of dragging his feet on her son’s case and called for voters to kick him out of office.
Howard lost to Willis.