BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WTOC) - Ahmaud Arbery’s family attorney has said corruption played a part in the initial police investigation and handling of Arbery’s death.
While he says the family weighs its options to sue, another family already has sued Glynn County for how its police department handled a different case.
An amended lawsuit complaint filed last month is linked to the 2018 double murder and suicide carried out by former Glynn County Police officer Lt. Robert Sasser.
Two years ago this month, he shot and killed his estranged wife Katie and her friend John Hall, before killing himself. Katie’s mother, Debra E. Gann, filed the lawsuit as the administrator of Katie’s estate.
The family’s Atlanta-based attorney Darren Penn says what happened to Katie is more than a deadly domestic violence case.
“This is systemic of a police department that doesn’t follow it’s rules, doesn’t follow it’s policies, doesn’t follow guidelines and really has a sense of it appears at least from the evidence of protecting its own over the interests of the public, and that’s a real problem," Penn said.
Glynn County has asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed, which prompted an amended complaint from Katie’s mother’s attorneys earlier this month.
“At this time, the Glynn County Police Department does not wish to release a statement regarding the lawsuit,” said Officer Brandon Kondo, a spokesman for the department.
Police body camera video captured on May 13, 2018 shows how the department handled a domestic violence incident involving the Sassers, Penn said. The footage shows Glynn County police officers outside Katie’s home after she called for help. She told police Robert Sasser tried to break into her home and threatened to kill her.
The incident occurred more than a month before Katie’s murder.
It appears to show Glynn County police officers sharing a laugh with Lt. Sasser who is a suspect in that moment. An officer is heard saying Sasser could have kicked in the door at Katie’s home if he had wanted to.
“You probably were using a police officer knock?” the responding officer said
“Yeah,” Sasser said, followed by laughter from the two, including other Glynn County police officers on the scene.
The lawsuit contends that the department systematically protected Robert Sasser up until he was fired in June - days before the killings. It also says the named officers in the lawsuit, including Police Chief John Powell, could have intervened sooner to prevent Katie and Hall’s deaths.
The lawsuit also outlines Sasser's lengthy history of misconduct between 2001 and 2011.
One of those reprimands included Lt. Sasser’s involvement in the controversial shooting death of Caroline Smalls. Sasser shot and killed Smalls after a police pursuit. She was not armed at the time.