(Reuters) - A Georgia police officer who was shown on video telling a woman during a traffic stop not to worry because police “only kill black people” retired on Thursday, his attorney said, after authorities sought the officer’s dismissal.
The dash cam video, which was aired by WSB-TV in Atlanta on Wednesday, shows the Cobb County police officer standing by a car pulled over alongside a road last year and instructing the woman in the front passenger seat to use the cellphone in her lap to make a call.
“OK I just don’t want to put my hands down,” the woman tells the officer, adding that she has seen “way too many videos of cops,” before trailing off.
“But you’re not black,” the officer replies. “Remember, we only shoot black people. Yeah. We only kill black people, right? All the videos you’ve seen, have you seen the black people get killed?”
Officials have identified the officer as Lieutenant Greg Abbott. The station, which obtained the video through public records laws, broadcast only a short excerpt of a longer encounter.
Numerous videos from dash cams, body-worn cameras and cellphones in recent years have shown U.S. police officers killing unarmed black people during encounters, sparking debate about excessive use of force and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
“This afternoon, after 27 years of faithful service to the citizens of Cobb County, Lt. Greg Abbott made the decision to retire,” his attorney, Lance LoRusso, said in an email.
Earlier on Thursday, Cobb County Police Chief Mike Register said he knows Abbott to be “honorable” but that authorities would begin the process of firing him.
“I don’t know what’s in his heart but I certainly know what came out of his mouth, and it’s inexcusable,” Register said at a news conference.
Suri Chadha Jimenez, a lawyer who represented the car’s driver, said the officer responded in an “unprofessional” way to what he saw as the reasonable concern of the woman, whom he described as a friend of the driver.
“My understanding is the cop is joking,” Chadha Jimenez said by phone, adding that it was “a nasty, sarcastic, untasteful joke.” The driver was later convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol, Jimenez said.
LoRusso said the officer was trying to de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger.
“His comments must be observed in their totality to understand their context,” LoRusso said.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles,; Editing by Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman