6 Deputies Indicted For Murder Of Inmate They Allegedly Beat, Tased And Pepper-Sprayed To Death

Photo: Courtesy of May family
Antonio May and family

Six deputies from the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia face murder charges for the death of an inmate that was held in Fulton County Jail over three years ago.

The three current and three former deputies were charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, battery, and violation of oath of office for the death of inmate Antonio May.

What happened to Antonio May?

May was allegedly beaten, pepper-sprayed and tased to death in Fulton County Jail by the officers in question. 

On September 11, 2018, May was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of trespassing after he was accused of throwing rocks at the windows of the American Cancer Society building downtown.

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The 32-year-old father of three reporedly struggled with mental health issues and had tested positive for amphetamine use at the time of his arrest, according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the May family in May 2019.

Antonio May died of cardiovascular collapse.

According to his lawyer, Michael Harper, May died of cardiovascular collapse due to physical restraints and alleged that he went through “excruciating pain and suffering.”

The wrongful death suit also says that Grady Memorial Hospital physicians diagnosed him with Substance Abuse Psychotic Disorder, and May even told a medical technician with NaphCare, Inc., the jail’s medical provider, that he was suicidal.

Instead of placing him into a specialized cell for medical observation, they put him in regular holding.

“As opposed to putting Mr. May in the Special Medical Observation Unit at the Fulton County Jail and giving him detoxifying chemical sedation, due to his mental health issues and due to him testing positive for amphetamines,” the complaint stated, “the medical professionals at NaphCare, Inc. released Mr. May to the jail deputies to place Mr. May in a general holding cell.”

Antonio May was allegedly assaulted while in a holding cell.

While in the general holding cell, May allegedly exposed himself, leading the six deputies from the jail’s Direct Action Response Team to enter the cell with him.

That was when they tased, beat, and pepper-sprayed him repeatedly, before placing him in a restraining chair with a spit mask on his face to be taken to shower for decontamination.

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There, the deputies put a hose to May’s face in order to try and wash out the remaining pepper spray around his eyes, and was pronounced dead minutes later.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation claimed that he got combative with jail staff, prompting the confrontation where he was tased, beat, and pepper-sprayed.

After they took him to the shower to decontaminate him from the pepper spray, he became unresponsive and died, a GBI spokeswoman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time.

“It is now the duty of my office to prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury at trial,” District attorney, Fani Willis, said in a statement. “My staff and I will continue to work to ensure that justice is done in this case.”

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Harper and Teddy Reese, who represent May’s family, appeared at a press conference Tuesday morning to thank Willis and the grand jury, alongside two of May’s sons, Za’Kobe and Jordan Rickerson, and other family members.

“No one should have to lose their life the way that Mr. May lost his,” Reese said, adding that law enforcement must treat all inmates as “human beings.”

“This is not an anti-police moment,” he said. “This is an accountability moment. This is holding people responsible for taking a man’s life in cold blood murder.”

He hopes that this case will illuminate the way law enforcement treats inmates.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.