A Georgia police officer who told a white woman during a traffic stop she had nothing to worry about because "we only kill black people" resigned Thursday after the department announced he would be fired.
After watching the footage and conducting an internal investigation, Cobb County Police Chief Mike Register said Thursday that the department was going to fire Lt. Greg Abbott, emphasizing that the comments were “inexcusable and inappropriate.”
"I’ve known Abbott for a number of years, always perceived him to be an honorable man, and he made a mistake,” Register told reporters. “I don’t know what’s in his heart, but I know what’s in his mouth, and it's not appropriate.”
After being notified of his impending termination, the lieutenant decided to retire Thursday afternoon, his attorney, Lance LoRusso, told BuzzFeed News.
In the video of the July 2016 traffic stop, recently obtained by WSB Channel 2 News, a nervous woman can be heard telling Abbott that she’s afraid to put her hands down to get her cell phone because "she’s seen way too many videos of cops…"
She trails off and Abbott interjects, standing at the passenger side window, “But you’re not black. Remember, we only kill black people. Yeah. We only kill black people, right?”
“All the videos you’ve seen, have you seen any white people get killed?” he continues.
Abbott, who has been with the Cobb County Police Department for 27 years, was merely attempting to lighten and deescalate a tense situation after the female passenger refused to cooperate, his attorney said.
“You can hear that on the video. He was using her reasoning and statements, trying to get her to comply with his request that she call someone to get her from the scene,” LoRusso said.
Register acknowledged that Abbott was being sarcastic, but reiterated that there is no situation in which such comments are tolerable.
“It’s hard to put those statements into any type of context that makes them appropriate,” the chief said.
Around 3 a.m. on July 10, 2016, Abbott pulled over a male driver on suspicion of drunk driving. The woman was in the passenger seat and was expressing fear about moving her hands, Surinder Chadha Jimenez, who represented the driver in the case, told BuzzFeed News.
The driver is Latino and while the woman is light-skinned, she is Greek and also identifies as a minority, Jimenez said, noting that the two had been pulled over just days after a Minnesota police shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop. Castille had been moving his hands when the officer fired seven bullets into the driver’s seat.
Castile's girlfriend, who was also in the car, used Facebook to livestream the graphic aftermath of the shooting, saying that Castile was reaching for his wallet and ID when officer Jeronimo Yanez opened fire. Yanez was found not guilty in June.
“I'm sure that was in the back of her head when this was going on," Jiminez said. "It’s not an irrational fear. Minorities are scared when they are pulled over.”
Speaking on behalf of his client, Jimenez praised the chief’s “bold and brave” decision to fire the Georgia police officer.
While the comments were “disgusting and in bad humor,” Jimenez says he did not see any malice in it and does not believe Abbott was targeting minorities.
“My client and the passenger was afraid there would be some retaliation after this came out, but they are glad it’s out there,” he said. “It brings exposure and awareness to what many minorities feel when they interact with police."