A veteran police lieutenant in Georgia who was caught on camera during a traffic stop last year saying officers "only kill black people" will be fired, authorities announced Thursday.
In dashcam footage from July 2016, first obtained by WSB-TV in Atlanta, a white woman can be heard telling Cobb County police Lt. Greg Abbott that she was scared to put her hands down because she had "seen way too many videos of cops." Abbott, who is also white, then says, "But you're not black. Remember, we only kill black people. Yeah, we only kill black people, right?"
Abbott, a 27-year veteran of the police department, will be removed from the force, Cobb County Police Chief Mike Register said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
"The statements were inexcusable and inappropriate," Register told reporters. "I don't know what's in [Abbott's] heart, but I certainly know what came out of his mouth."
Abbott's lawyer, Lance LoRusso, said his client had been cooperating with the internal investigation.
"His comments must be observed in their totality to understand their context," LoRusso said in a statement. "He was attempting to de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger. In context, his comments were clearly aimed at attempting to gain compliance by using the passenger's own statements and reasoning to avoid making an arrest."
The date of the incident in the suburbs of Atlanta was not immediately clear. It happened the same month that Baton Rouge police fatally shot Alton Sterling during a confrontation outside a convenience store and a suburban Minneapolis officer fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop. It also came in the wake of several other high-profile police shootings of black men, many of which sparked protests.
WSB, the local TV station, told Cobb County police about the incident last Friday, Register told reporters. Police officials then turned the dashcam footage over to internal investigators. That internal review, Register said, suggested Abbott was trying to be "sarcastic."
A study released in May recommended that police in Cobb County address public perceptions of racism and discriminatory policing. The study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police encouraged the department to keep track of what happens when officers interact with people of different races, "given the societal concerns over biased policing."