A Georgia state trooper has been charged with felony murder and aggravated assault after he fatally shot a 60-year-old Black man during a traffic stop. In a statement, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announced they arrested and booked 27-year-old Jacob Gordon Thompson on Friday for the August 7 incident. He has also been fired from the Georgia State Patrol.
“The Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) terminated Jacob G. Thompson today, Aug. 14, 2020, due to his ‘negligence or inefficiency in performing assigned duties; or commission of a felony.” Thompson was hired on July 28, 2013,’” the Georgia Department of Public Safety announced.
The incident occurred on Stoney Pond Road in Screven County when Thompson attempted stopping the deceased, Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, over a broken taillight, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. After Lewis declined to pull over, Thompson pursued him and performed a Precision Intervention Technique (PIT), leading the deceased’s car to come to a halt in a ditch.
Thompson subsequently came out of his patrol vehicle and shot Lewis in the face. The deceased, who had his hands on the steering wheel after his vehicle came to a stop, was pronounced dead on the scene. In a report, the former state trooper said he fired at Lewis after he thought he was going to ram into him.
“At some point, I heard the engine on the violator’s vehicle revving at a high rate of speed,” Thompson wrote. “I saw him wrenching the steering wheel in an aggressive back and forth manner towards me and my patrol vehicle. 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.”
The lawyer for Lewis’ family, Francys Johnson, however, said the PIT maneuver, which the accused performed on a rural dirt road, was unnecessary as there wasn’t any imminent risk to public safety, AJC further reports.
“Mr. Lewis was no threat as a 60-year-old man just trying to make it home from a convenience store run,” Johnson told the New York Times. Lewis had stepped out to buy grape soda for his wife.
According to Johnson, the quick pace at which authorities moved to take action against Thompson was as a result of the ongoing protests against excessive police use of deadly force in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“Oftentimes justice is so delayed in these kinds of cases,” he told the New York Times. “I can’t think of another case that has moved so swiftly.”
In a statement, he added: “The unprecedented pace of the investigation is a direct result of years of activism on these issues along with a sea-change in law enforcement leadership at the top of the GBI. This was not business as usual. The GBI and now the FBI who have launched a separate civil rights investigation have done what was right at this stage. I rarely get to say that.”
Johnson also confirmed his request for a federal civil rights investigation has been approved by the Department of Justice.
“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.”
A candlelight vigil was held for the deceased on Friday.
“I want justice for Julian. He was too good to die as he did. This is one step towards justice,” Lewis’ wife, Betty, said after Thompson’s arrest.