Screven County, GA – A Georgia state trooper who fatally shot a suspect he believed was trying to run over him has been fired and arrested on a murder charge.
Georgia State Patrol (GSP) Trooper Jacob Gordon Thompson, 27, was arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) on Aug. 14 on charges of aggravated assault and felony murder in connection with the Aug. 7 shooting death of 60-year-old Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, WLKY reported.
According to the GBI, Lewis fled from Trooper Thompson in a Nissan Sentra after the trooper attempted to pull him over for a traffic infraction on Stoney Pond Road, USA Today reported.
“It became apparent to me that the violator did not intend to stop his vehicle,” Trooper Thompson wrote in an incident report, according to NPR.
The trooper pursued the fleeing suspect down multiple rural roadways before he performed a Precision Intervention Technique (PIT) maneuver that caused Lewis to crash his vehicle into a ditch, according to the GBI.
Trooper Thompson wrote in his incident report that he parked his patrol vehicle “approximately even with the violator’s vehicle,” and then drew his duty weapon for his own safety as he exited his vehicle, USA Today reported.
He said he heard Lewis revving the engine of the Nissan and saw him gripping the steering wheel with both hands.
Lewis then allegedly began “wrenching the steering wheel in an aggressive back-and-forth manner towards me and my patrol vehicle,” Trooper Thompson wrote in his report.
“It appeared to me that the violator was trying to use his vehicle to injure me,” the trooper explained. “Being in fear for my life and safety, I discharged my weapon once.”
According to the Lewis family’s attorney, former Georgia NAACP president Francys Johnson, the round struck Lewis in the head, killing him, USA Today reported.
The GSP fired Trooper Thompson after his arrest on Friday, according to WLKY.
The department said the trooper’s employment was terminated due to “negligence or inefficiency in performing assigned duties; or commission of a felony,” USA Today reported.
The GBI’s investigation into the incident is ongoing, as are separate GBI and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) civil rights investigations.
Thompson joined the GSP on July 28, 2013, according to USA Today.
He was booked into the Screven County Jail.
“Today is justice for Julian, but next week it could be for any of us,” Johnson declared in the wake of the former trooper’s arrest, according to USA Today. “That ex-trooper was arrested and sits in a Screven County Jail awaiting trial…If you want to clap for anything, clap that the system appears to have worked for us today.”
Georgia NAACP president James Woodall said the officer-involved shooting was clearly a “case of racial profiling,” WLKY reported.
“No one should have to bury a loved one simply because of a busted tail light,” Woodall declared. “We’re done dying.”
Johnson acknowledged that Lewis, a carpenter, “was not a perfect member of the Lewis family,” but argued that he didn’t deserve “to die the way he did,” WLKY reported.
The attorney further alleged that he has received “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,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Lewis’ wife, Betty, said that the now-former trooper is guilty of murder, CNN reported.
“My husband was somebody’s father, somebody’s son, somebody’s nephew, brother and he’s gone by the hands of a murderer,” she declared.
Thompson’s attorney, Keith Barber, argued that his client is a “fine trooper” who has “an excellent character,” WLKY reported.
His Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) file showed he had no prior history of disciplinary action against him, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I think at the end of the day he will be exonerated in this case,” Barber told WLKY.