BUCKHEAD | Cop suspended after 140 mph chase

7:51 AM, Mar 22, 2012   |    comments
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This month, Atlanta police released a report produced by its Office of Professional Standards, examining a police chase of a motorcycle July 23, 2010.  OPS began its probe after the motorist, whose speed reportedly exceeded 140 mph, complained about the treatment he got after he voluntarily ended the chase.

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta police cruiser was headed north out of Midtown on I-85, catching up with a speeding motorcycle. When Officer Patrick Meegan flipped on his blue lights, the biker took off.

"I saw a fast object was coming toward me from the behind," said 40-year-old Ehsan Razavi, the motorcyclist. "I didn't see any blue lights. I saw an object was coming toward me. I did not see any blue lights.

The motorcycle, built for speed, quickly surged past 100 miles an hour and beyond the reach of Officer Meeagan's police cruiser. Within seconds, Razavi says he realized he had fled a police officer.

"I knew they were coming after me and I just wanted to go to the safe area so I can pull over," Razavi said.

With OfficeR Meegan in pursuit, Razavi sped from Midtown to Georgia 400 to the Lenox Rd. exit, where a second police officer, Mauricio Castro picked him on the Buckhead Loop.

"I got him, I got him, I got him," Castro is heard saying on his dashboard camera video, as the motorcycle pulls in front of his cruiser and speeds toward Lenox Mall on a busy Friday night.

In hindsight, Razavi admits he should have pulled over sooner.  "That was a bad judgment call on my part. Yes, I should have done that, which I'm paying a dear price for it right now," Razavi said.

Razavi says he searched for a place in Buckhead to pull over because he'd had some rough experiences with police during his fifteen years in Atlanta. The Iranian immigrant, who says he moved to the US as a child following the 1979 Iranian revolution, says he wanted to find a spot with some visibility.

Meantime, the chase had hit surface streets. A police supervisor ordered an end to the high-speed pursuit.  Castro kept the motorcycle in his sights, though.  Within seconds, Razavi pulled over into a parking lot next to the Buckhead Ritz Carlton hotel.  Castro pulled in behind him.

"Hold on," Castro exclaims on the video. "He pulled into an apartment complex - a business complex. He's gonna be bailing here in a minute."

It ended less than four minutes after the chase began.  The chase lacked the drama of extensive duration, and nobody crashed a vehicle.  But the APD investigation went on for a full year, because of what happened next.

"I could have easily gotten away from those police officers if I'd wanted to," Razavi said.  "I stopped because I didn't want anybody to get hurt."

On the video, Razavi is seen stopping the bike and dismounting as the police cruiser pulls up.  Castro exits with his pistol drawn, yelling "get off the bike. Get on the ground. Get on the f--- ground!"

"I got off the bike. I did not resist arrest or anything," Razavi said.

Razavi was on his knees when Castro repeatedly told him to get on the ground.

"I'm doing what he asked me to do," Razavi said. "And he kept yelling at me."

"Get on the ground!" Castro is seen yelling at the kneeling biker. 

Castro then lifts a foot, and kicks Razavi once with the sole of his shoe, forcing Razavi's torso to the brick driveway.

"Get on the ground. Turn around. Turn around!" Castro yells to Razavi, who is face up on the pavement and still wearing his motorcycle helmet.  "Turn around. Turn!"

"What do you want me to do?" Razavi asks, failing to understand that Castro wants him face down on the ground.

Castro responds by reaching for the biker and roughly flipping him over, then handcuffing him.

Police said Razavi's motorcycle had exceeded speeds of 140 miles an hour, leading them through Buckhead on a busy Friday night. But Officer Castro's use of his foot to subdue Razavi drew the attention of APD's internal affairs unit -- which questioned the officer's actions, and produced a 78 page internal affairs report.

In the end, Castro was suspended for three days without pay -- not for use of excessive force, but for failing to take other, unspecified appropriate action. 

An APD source says Castro was suspended for failing to report that Razavi's motorcycle was damaged following the stop.  Razavi contends that police deliberately knocked over his motorcycle after he was handcuffed.  The APD report says the evidence doesn't support that conclusion.

Atlanta police declined an interview request, so we asked retired Atlanta police investigator Bud Watson to look at the video.

"The officer did what he was supposed to do and performed admirably," Watson said.  "At that moment, you don't know if (the biker is) under the influence of alcohol, under the influence of some mind altering drug."

Watson said Castro had to act decisively when the motorcyclist dismounted.

"The officer has to act with his safety in mind, as well as the safety of the person he's attempting to arrest. I think he did a beautiful job of it."

Castro returned to work following his suspension. Razavi says he's in treatment for back pain that he claims began the night he fled police.

And Razavi says he hasn't ridden a motorcycle again since that July night two years ago.

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