No Indictment for Former Georgia Trooper Who Shot and Killed a Black Motorist

by Msnbctv news staff

A grand jury has declined to indict a former Georgia state trooper who shot and killed a Black man last year during a traffic stop over a broken taillight.

Relatives of the victim, Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, 60, said they were disappointed in the decision and urged the district attorney to impanel a new grand jury in order to pursue charges again against the former trooper, Jacob Thompson.

Lindsay Milton, the victim’s mother, implied race was a factor in the grand jury’s decision on Monday not to indict Mr. Thompson, who is white. “They’re going to let this young man go free ’cause my child was a Black man; no this is not going to work,” she told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday. “We are going to push this to the very end.”

Telephone and email messages left for District Attorney Daphne J. Totten and a lawyer for Mr. Thompson were not immediately returned or answered on Tuesday night.

Francys Johnson, a lawyer for Mr. Lewis’s family, said the family also wanted a meeting with the district attorney, and for officials to release police video of the shooting. “The public deserves it — they paid for it,” Mr. Johnson said at the news conference. Then, referring to the grand jury members, he said, “And it’s been shown now to 22 citizens in Screven County, but it has not been shown to Julian’s mother or his wife or his attorney.”

Mr. Thompson, 27, was arrested and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault days after the Aug. 7 traffic stop and fatal shooting of Mr. Lewis.

At around 9:20 p.m., according to a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Thompson spotted Mr. Lewis near Sylvania, Ga., which is about 60 miles northwest of Savannah, driving with a broken taillight. The state trooper followed Mr. Lewis and tried to pull him over, but he continued driving and Mr. Thompson used his patrol vehicle to force Mr. Lewis’s car to turn sideways, causing him to stop in a ditch, the report said.

Mr. Thompson drew his gun as he got out of his vehicle, he told investigators, and said he saw Mr. Lewis trying to maneuver his vehicle toward him, prompting him to fire his weapon. Mr. Lewis was struck once and pronounced dead at the scene, the report said.

But Dustin Peak, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, testified in September that this would have been impossible, because Mr. Lewis’s vehicle was inoperable after it hit the ditch and the car battery disconnected, The Associated Press reported.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety said in a statement that Mr. Thompson had been fired for his “negligence or inefficiency in performing assigned duties; or commission of a felony.”

Mr. Johnson said Georgia law allowed district attorneys to impanel new grand juries if a prior one declined to pursue charges. “We believe that this was a very strong case,” Mr. Johnson said. “The evidence was there and still is.”

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