Video Footage of a Homeless Woman's Beating Raises Questions About Excessive Force

July 12th 2017

Anna Albaryan

This disturbing video of a black homeless woman's beating in Georgia is going viral and raising questions about the police officer's use of excessive force. 

Katie McCrary's June 4 beating took place at a Chevron gas station in DeKalb County, Georgia, and ended with her arrest. According to DeKalb County Police, "she continued to aggressively resist the officer’s commands," Public Information Officer Shiera D. Campbell told WSB-TV on Tuesday.

But cell phone video taken by a witness at the station, McCrary can be seen laying on the ground—clearly unarmed—while the police officer repeatedly strikes her with his baton. After about a minute of blows, the officer finally reaches for his handcuffs to arrest McCrary.

Video of homeless woman being beat at a local gas station in Atlanta

Witnesses said McCrary frequents the station to ask customers for money since she's homeless, according to an interview with the witness by WSB-TV.

The most disturbing moment in the video is when the woman grabs the officer's baton to avoid additional blows, and is threatened by the officer"

"Let it go or I'm going to shoot you."

The woman who is recording on her cell phone is heard saying, "no, please don't." 

Finally, after the officer places handcuffs on McCrary, she asks over and over again, "What did I do?" 

Racially Motivated Violence by Male Officers

The woman, a 38-year-old African-American, is at a clear physical disadvantage. Meanwhile, according to research by the National Center for Women and Policing, the "average male police officer is more than 8.5 times more likely than his female counterpart to have an allegation of excessive force sustained against him." 

And according to data collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics on police officers' use of nonfatal force, "blacks (3.5 percent) were more likely to experience nonfatal force during their most recent contact with police than whites (1.4 percent) and Hispanics (2.1 percent)."

The bureau clarifies that nonfatal force can include, "shouting, cursing, threatening force, pushing or grabbing, hitting or kicking, using pepper spray, using an electroshock weapon, pointing a gun, or using other force during the most recent contact." It also found that residents who had experienced that type of force once were likely to experience it again. And as far as excessive use goes, the bureau reports that "nearly 75 percent of those who said police used force during the contact described it as excessive." 

Criminalizing the Homeless

A revealing study by the The National Coalition for the Homeless and The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty noted that cities have increasingly criminalized extreme poverty, prohibiting activities such as sleeping, eating, sitting, or begging in public spaces.

McCrary's decision to solicit money from customers at the Chevron gas station should be seen as a life-sustaining activity, according to those who advocate for homeless people's rights. And witnesses said her response was undertstandable.

"Yeah, she went crazy when he put her on the ground for no reason and then start(ed) beating her," the woman who recorded the video told WSB-TV.

"Who wouldn’t go crazy? I mean you’re getting beat by an iron stick."