Family of man killed by Georgia police want investigation

AP News
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Posted: Mar 26, 2015 6:10 PM

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — The family of a man who police say drove a Maserati at officers before he was fatally shot announced Thursday that they are seeking an independent investigation of the incident.

Nicholas Taft Thomas, 23, was killed Tuesday at a Goodyear store where he worked outside Atlanta. He was inside a customer's Maserati as part of his job when police arrived with an arrest warrant for Thomas over felony probation violation.

Smyrna police say he drove the Maserati toward officers, and a Smyrna officer fired into the car. Witnesses have disputed that account, saying police had blocked the car in and that it was not moving when the gunfire happened.

"The car was not moving when they began to shoot at him. The car had been stopped. He hit a curb. He couldn't go any further," Goodyear customer Brittany Eustache told WSB-TV. She said she watched the shooting from a few feet away inside the store.

Smyrna police had requested assistance from Cobb County police in delivering the warrant because the Goodyear store is near Smyrna but just outside it, in an unincorporated part of the county. Three Cobb County officers went as backup. None of them fired.

The Cobb County Police Department is investigating the shooting.

At news conference Thursday at a Decatur law firm, attorneys for the family said the two police departments are essentially investigating themselves, which could taint the findings.

"How can you have Cobb County doing the investigation when you invited them in to participate in the arrest?" asked lawyer Mawuli Mel Davis, an attorney for Thomas' family.

Davis said his law firm has asked Smyrna's police chief to request that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation take over the investigation. He said Thursday that he hasn't heard back from the chief.

"The process has to be that every time there's a police shooting, the GBI should be called in," Davis said. "That makes good government."

The GBI has previously said it must receive a request from a law enforcement agency to investigate an officer-involved shooting.

Cobb County police Sgt. Dana Pierce said his agency is investigating because the killing happened in an unincorporated part of the county, which falls within Cobb police jurisdiction. He said any decision to call in the GBI to investigate because an officer was involved would have to come from Smyrna police.

Smyrna police Sgt. Ed Cason did not immediately return a phone message and email seeking comment.

Goodyear workers told the law firm there is surveillance video from the store and Smyrna police got a copy of it, attorney Robert Bozeman said.

Smyrna police have not commented on whether any video shows what transpired. Police have said the officer who fired has been placed on administrative leave, per department policy.

At the news conference, the mother of Thomas' 4-month-old girl, London, held the baby in her arms.

"He was a wonderful family man, he was a great father," Cajun Snorton said. "We have a beautiful daughter together and he won't even be able to watch her grow."