Atlanta, GA – The suspect accused of murdering a 24-year-old Fulton County sheriff’s deputy after an argument late last week has been apprehended.
Alton Oliver, 26, was arrested Monday and charged with fatally shooting 24-year-old Fulton County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) Deputy James Thomas, WAGA reported.
“Lead detectives [were] able to identify a suspect, get him apprehended by Zone 1 patrol officers, and he is in custody,” Atlanta Police Department (APD) Deputy Chief Charles Hampton confirmed on Tuesday.
The investigation into the incident began at approximately 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 29, when police received a report of shots fired in the area of Payton Road and Bolton Road, WAGA reported.
They arrived at the scene to find a silver car that had been involved in a crash.
Deputy Thomas’ body was discovered in the driver’s seat, WAGA reported.
Deputy Chief Hampton said Oliver was on foot and that he and Deputy Thomas got into “some type of argument that escalated to the gunfire,” according to WXIA.
Investigators do not believe Oliver and Deputy Thomas knew one another prior to the incident, the deputy chief said.
They said they believe Deputy Thomas was murdered after the crash, WAGA reported.
A motive was not immediately released.
We are holding a moment of remembrance for Deputy James Thomas on Thursday, January 5, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. in the Assembly Hall at the Fulton County Government Center – 141 Pryor Street Atlanta, GA 30303.
The public is invited to gather in memory of Deputy Thomas. pic.twitter.com/Gw1L8jWrH2
— Fulton County Sheriff's Office (@FultonSheriff) January 4, 2023
Police have released few other details about the case, but noted they were able to track down the suspect thanks to information provided by the public and the city’s video surveillance cameras.
“It shows the work of citizens. The 911 caller, some truck drivers who had some dash cam videos and just the technology that the city of Atlanta has that leads to investigations and success like this,” Deputy Chief Hampton told reporters.
“Our camera network called ‘Connect Atlanta’ was very instrumental in helping bring this individual to justice,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens told WANF.
Oliver has no prior criminal history and a handful of traffic infractions, according to WAGA.
He was booked into the Cobb County Jail on charges of felony murder, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and aggravated assault, WXIA reported.
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said Deputy Thomas had wrapped up a work shift shortly before he was found dead in his car, according to WAGA.
Sheriff Labat described the young deputy as “the life of the party.”
“He was an outstanding young man,” the sheriff told WAGA. “We personally recruited him from another agency down south specifically because of his energy and the love for what he brought to our agency.”
Deputy Thomas joined the FCSO in August of 2022, the department said in a press release.
He previously served with the Milledgeville Police Department, and was assigned to Grady Detention at the time of his death.
“As you can imagine, we’re grieving with the family,” Sheriff Labat said, according to WSB. “But we are also wrapping our arms around the family, loving and supporting him.”
A fundraising page established to help Deputy Thomas’ family in the wake of his murder has raised more than $2,000 so far.
Marty, the girls, and I continue to mourn the loss of Deputy James Thomas alongside his loved ones and the @FultonSheriff's Office.
While we are thankful his killer will face justice, we know this is a difficult time for his family and we'll continue to hold them in our prayers. https://t.co/foxd0NUHgi
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) January 4, 2023
Deputy Thomas, who grew up in Mississippi, knew he wanted to work in the law enforcement field from the time he was a kid, according to Edwards Police Chief Terence Crump.
“Every time we would come through the neighborhood, he was just excited to see the officers he would flag us down,” Chief Crump told WAGA. “He was really a blessing, because most kids his age, law enforcement wasn’t on the radar for them.”
Chief Crump said he took the aspiring deputy under his wing and helped him begin his career in law enforcement.
They continued to stay in touch after Deputy Thomas left the area, and had spoken less than 24 hours before the young deputy was found dead, WAGA reported.