Police make arrest in beating with link to Eagle

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imageUPDATED | Thursday, 12:38 p.m. Police arrested a suspect Wednesday evening in the beating and robbery of a man whose black SUV was discovered a day earlier in the parking lot of the Eagle.

The Atlanta Police Department, along with the U.S Marshals Service and State Board of Pardons & Paroles, arrested Gregory Johnson, 30, and charged him with robbery and aggravated battery. He’s charged in the assault of George B. Walker, a 31-year-old Marietta man who was discovered in or near Central Park early Saturday morning.

“Our investigators are questioning the suspect as we speak,” Carlos Campos, public affairs manager for Atlanta police, said shortly after the arrest was announced about 6:20 p.m. Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Atlanta police were called to the parking lot Tuesday about 11 p.m. by an investigator from the State Board of Pardons & Paroles who spotted Walker’s vehicle. Walker is an eight-year veteran of the state agency and is a hearing officer and certified law enforcement officer, according to Steve Hayes, the public affairs director for the board.

Walker was discovered Saturday about 6 a.m. on Merritts Avenue near Central Park, which is a few blocks south of the Eagle. He was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital and placed into a medically-induced coma, police said.

Walker was not in Midtown on work-related duties, Hayes said Thursday.

Walker apparently parked his black SUV in the parking lot of the Eagle on July 9, according to Richard Ramey, the bar’s co-owner. The bar did not find any credit card receipts for him, Ramey says, and staff at the bar don’t recall seeing the man inside on Friday night.

“We don’t think anything took place at the Eagle. Nobody recognized [him] from the bar,” Ramey says.

Police notified the department’s LGBT liaison, Officer Patricia Powell, about the beating, but are not classifying the incident as a bias crime, Campos says. The agency has been criticized for not quickly informing Powell about cases involving LGBT people.

“Officer Powell has been notified and is aware of the situation,” Campos says. “At this point, we have no evidence to support classification as a bias crime. We simply at this point don’t know what transpired. An interview with the victim could certainly help us clarify that.”

Campos would not say if the man was robbed or if he was fully clothed when police and paramedics treated him. WSB reported Wednesday that Walker was found with no identification and was initially listed as a John Doe patient at Grady.

Police impounded Walker’s SUV while they continue to investigate the case and have not been able to interview him, Campos says.

Ramey says he’s speaking publicly about the incident to quash rumors that Atlanta police again raided the Eagle. Undercover officers and members of the police department’s controversial Red Dog Unit stormed the bar last September. The raid resulted in eight arrests—later thrown out in court—a federal lawsuit, sanctions for officers who orchestrated it, and continuing headaches for both Mayor Kasim Reed and the police department.

Police cautioned LGBT residents to be patient as the investigation continues.

“I hope that nobody jumps to conclusions. I don’t want anyone to panic and think this is a hate crime or an attack on someone in the gay community. We just don’t know that right now,” Campos says.

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