A grand jury decided on Monday not to indict a former Georgia State Trooper who fatally shot a Black motorist last year. What was his crime? Having a broken taillight.
According to the New York Times, 60-year-old Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis was fatally shot last August by former trooper Jacob Thompson after being pulled over for the taillight. Thompson was arrested and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault shortly after the shooting took place. The Georgia Department of Public Safety also released a statement explaining that Thompson was fired due to “negligence or inefficiency in performing assigned duties; or commission of a felony.”
Lindsay Milton, Lewis’s mother, did not mince words when she told reporters at a news conference why she believed the grand jury failed to indict Thompson. “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.”
From the New York Times:
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.
Francys Johnson, a lawyer for Lewis’ family, has said that the family wants to speak with the district attorney about the case and for the body camera footage of the incident to be released to the public, or at the very least the family. “The public deserves it — they paid for it,” Johnson said at the news conference. “It’s been shown now to 22 citizens in Screven County,” he added, referring to the grand jury. “But it has not been shown to Julian’s mother or his wife or his attorney.”
The family wishes to impanel a new grand jury, as Georgia law allows them to do so if the previous one declined to move forward with the charges. “We believe that this was a very strong case,” Johnson told reporters. “The evidence was there and still is.”
While there was a brief glimmer of hope that the conviction and sentencing of Derek Chauvin was a sign of changes to come, it appears that the more things change, sadly, the more they stay the same.