A Georgia State Patrol trooper has been arrested on felony murder charges after he shot and killed a 60-year-old Black man following a traffic stop on August 7. Now, an attorney representing the victim’s family says a civil rights investigation is underway.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that on Friday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations arrested 27-year-old state trooper Jacob Gordon Thompson in Screven County for the shooting of Julian Lewis.
Authorities have said the shooting took place after Thompson attempted to stop a Nissan Sentra for a broken taillight on Stoney Pond Road in Screven County.
After a brief chase down several county roads, the trooper initiated a PIT maneuver, and the car came to a stop in a ditch, the GBI said. The trooper fired one round, fatally striking Lewis.
The family attorney said the PIT maneuver was unnecessary. PIT maneuvers, in which an officer uses his or her car to push a vehicle off the road, can be dangerous and are generally only done to eliminate any risk to public safety. Johnson contends there was no risk to public safety on the rural dirt road.
The GBI was requested that day to investigate the officer-involved shooting. The agency has opened 59 such investigations this year.
Thomson—who has been a Georgia State Trooper since 2013—claimed in his police report that he “heard the engine on the violator’s vehicle revving at a high rate of speed.”
“I saw him wrenching the steering wheel in an aggressive back and forth manner towards me and my patrol vehicle,” his report reads. “It appeared to me that the violator was trying to use his vehicle to injure me. Being in fear for my life and safety, I discharged my weapon once.”
At this point, one has to assume that “I was in fear for my life” is written somewhere in the Cop’s Guide to Killing Black People When it Clearly Wasn’t Necessary. Fortunately, this time the words weren’t taken at face value, and an arrest was made.
Lewis’ wife Betty—who was leaving the funeral home when she heard that her husband’s killer would be charged—agrees.
“I want justice for Julian. He was too good to die as he did. This is one step towards justice,” she said in a statement, AJC reports.
Lewis family attorney and former Georgia NAACP head Francis Johnson—who said he learned Friday that the U.S. Department of Justice approved his request for a civil rights investigation—also praised the GBI Director Vic Reynolds, the local district attorney’s office and other officials for promptly arresting Thomson and making him answer for his alleged crimes.
“It’s rare that I’m able to say that all the agencies involved have done the right thing,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that he requested the civil rights investigation—despite the fact that Thomson has no prior disciplinary infractions on his police record—because word on the street is that Thomson has a history of racial bias.
“We got lots of messages from people in the community that the habit of ex-trooper Thompson was to racially profile and harass Black and brown people on the highway,” Johnson told AJC. “This was not shocking to them that this happened.”