A trio of Georgia cops tased and handcuffed a black auto mechanic—then realized they had the wrong guy, shocking video shows.
Patrick Mumford, 24, was sitting in a driveway the afternoon of Feb. 1 when officers with the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department approached him. Less than a minute later, they shot him twice with a stun gun.
The police had a warrant for another man, Michael Clay, but immediately assumed they had their guy. Indeed, the lawmen believed Mumford was Clay, and that he was lying about his identity, a review of body camera footage shows.
Now Mumford’s fate is hanging in the balance because Savannah police mistook him for someone else. After the frightening encounter, Mumford was charged with violating probation—stemming from a nonviolent drug offense—and could spend up to seven years in jail, his attorney says.
After Mumford was tased, the cops even argued with onlookers over whether he resembled their target suspect. “They look a lot—a good bit alike, ma’am. It’s not far off,” an officer tells a bystander in the footage.
The startling confrontation began seconds after cops came to the Savannah residence looking for Michael Clay, Mumford’s attorney Will Claiborne told The Daily Beast.
“The problem is Patrick Mumford doesn’t look like Michael Clay, he ain’t Michael Clay, and they roll up on him like he is,” Claiborne said in a phone interview Thursday. “When he says his name is Patrick, they don’t believe him.
“If they had had adequate training, they would have known not all black men look the same.”
Clairborne’s firm has released an edited version of the body cam video, which was obtained through an open-records request.
The footage comes as the nation grapples with the recent deaths of two black men killed by police—Philando Castile of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana—and as Black Lives Matter protests nationwide are working to challenge law enforcement’s deadly use of force against black men and women.
“I hope for the Savannah police department’s sake that this would be a teachable moment,” Claiborne told The Daily Beast. “It does add some context as to why folks can be fearful of law enforcement.”
Claiborne described his client as 5-foot-3 and “130 pounds [when] soaking wet,” hardly a formidable suspect to three policemen.
“When he gets nervous, he laughs,” Claiborne said of Mumford. “His default is laughter and making jokes. He’s not the sort of guy someone would feel threatened or intimidated by, much less three law enforcement officers with firearms.
“He’s a normal guy and he was completely terrified out of his mind,” the attorney added.
In the video, an officer gets out of his car and approaches Mumford, as he sits in his black BMW, which is parked in a driveway.
“How you doing, sir?” the officer says. He asks Mumford, who is visibly scared, for his name. “What’s your name? I’m going to ask you one more time,” the cop continues.
“OK…” Mumford replies, before answering quietly, “Patrick.”
“We probably need to talk to you, so what’s your name?”
“Uh… Patrick?” he replies.
The officer orders Mumford to stand up, turn around, and place his hands on the car.
“What happened? What did I do?” Mumford asks.
“You got a warrant, dude,” the officer responds.
“I just came back from my probation officer,” Mumford cries.
Within seconds, the cop orders another officer, “Tase him! Tase him!”
Mumford sits in his car facing the police, his feet outside the vehicle and on the pavement. “I’m not getting up, man. Show me the warrant,” he says.
But the cop has already started counting down. “Three, two... all right, tase him!” he orders.
A terrified Mumford raises his leg in front of him, trying to shield himself from the stun gun. “Y’all ain’t let me know what’s going on,” Mumford says.
Another officer pulls the taser trigger twice.
According to Mumford’s attorney, only 38 seconds passed between the cops saying hello and ordering “All right, tase him!”
The officers remove Mumford’s wallet soon after. “Patrick Mumford,” one cop announces as he eyes Mumford’s identification card.
“How is [my probation officer] not going to tell me I have a warrant?” Mumford says, as officers hold him down, face against a white car. “Tell me I had a warrant.”
“I don’t know if you got a warrant ’cause you’re not who I’m looking for,” the officer replies. “But here’s the deal, when I ask you for ID, because you look a lot like the person we’re looking for…”
The conversation pauses when another cop tries removing a taser prong from Mumford’s back. “Owwww,” Mumford is heard wailing, just before that cop mutters, “Well, that one’s stuck.”
“… OK, when we ask you for ID... you give us ID,” the officer restraining Mumford demands. (The Savannah cops never mentioned asking for identification in their own reports of the incident, police records show.)
Later in the video, the lawmen explain to bystanders how they mistook one black man for another. The officer with the body camera points to Mumford, who is standing. “Who does he look a lot like?” the cop asks.
“I don’t know, who?” one confused resident replies.
“He knows who it is,” the cop declares.
“So, who is it?” the neighbor cries.
“Michael,” the cop replies.
“He is NOT Michael,” the neighbor says indignantly.
“OK, I know that now, but when I walk up and ask him…” the cop trails off.
Mumford interjects, “I said, ‘My name is Patrick!’ I said, ‘Patrick!’”
“The picture we got, they look exactly [alike],” one officer says in the background.
The body camera cop chimes in: “They look a lot—a good bit alike, ma’am. It’s not far off. OK, are we wrong? And he doesn’t want to give us his ID…”
Then the officer tells neighbors that Mumford’s alleged interference is captured on his body camera. “When we asked him for his ID, he wanted to be not very cooperative,” the officer says. “It’s all on video.”
Mumford was charged with misdemeanor obstruction. While that charge was dismissed, Mumford is still facing a probation revocation hearing that could send him to jail. (“Just because they dismissed the new charge doesn’t mean they can’t still go and revoke his probation,” Claiborne said.)
In October 2014, Mumford pleaded guilty to charges including misdemeanor marijuana possession and felony possession of a controlled substance, records show. As a first-time offender, he was not convicted and instead sentenced to probation.
As a result of the police department’s mistake, Mumford could lose his job as a certified collision specialist. He may also be forced to drop out of college where he’s pursuing his associate’s degree, Claiborne said.
Messages left with the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department were not returned as of Thursday evening.
Still, arrest reports offer a glimpse into their actions.
Georgia cops were searching for Michael Bernard Clay, after getting a call from a California detective seeking to verify his Savannah residence. Clay had “turned in a phone that was involved in a robbery,” the report states.
The Savannah officers also discovered Clay had an active warrant in Cobb County for simple assault, the document reveals.
Police claim Mumford was given “numerous reasonable attempts to comply with officers, but he refused and still physically/actively resisted,” as the officer with the body camera noted in a police report reviewed by The Daily Beast.
He claims that Mumford “put his right foot up toward me as if he were going to kick me while I was aiming the Taser at him” and that Mumford “began to retreat back further into the vehicle as if he were reaching for a weapon.”
His fellow officers echoed claims that Clay’s mother, who arrived on scene, allegedly admitted her son and Mumford looked alike, the report shows.
“Mr. Clay’s mother stated that they looked very similar,” one officer recalled, “and she understood how all three of us not knowing either male could believe Mr. Patrick Mumford to be Mr. Michael Clay.”