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A Georgia State Patrol officer has been charged with murder following the Aug. 7 shooting death of a 60-year-old black motorist who reportedly tried to flee during a traffic stop.
Authorities at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation filed charges against Trooper Jacob Gordon Thompson, 27, after he shot and killed Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis in rural Screven County, Fox News reported.
In addition to murder, Thompson was also charged with felony aggravated assault.
The GBI filed charges after the head of the Georgia chapter of the NAACP, James “Major” Woodall, publicly demanded a federal investigation into the killing of Lewis, who is black.
That said, Woodall claimed his demand for an investigation was not racially motivated.
“This is not a black and white issue. It is an issue of humanity,” he said, according to the Statesboro Herald.
But later, The Associated Press quoted Woodall as having reversed course in claiming the shooting was another example of a black man unjustifiably being killed by a white law enforcement officer, Fox News reported.
Following the shooting, the Georgia State Patrol called for a probe by the GBI, which is standard operating procedure, the paper said.
GSP Capt. Robert Balkcom, commander of Troop F where Thompson was stationed, said Thursday he had been suspended with pay following the incident. The seven-year veteran patrolman was fired after he was charged, however.
Civil rights attorney Francys Johnson, who was one of a handful of other lawyers calling for a federal probe, said that Lewis was shot in the face. He called for Thompson to be “fired and charged.”
“This is not a South Georgia problem. It is not a Georgia problem. It is an American problem,” he added, according to the paper.
In a statement, the Georgia Department of Public Safety said that Thompson was fired for “negligence or inefficiency in performing assigned duties; or commission of a felony.”
A day after the incident, the GBI issued a short statement saying that a trooper tried to stop a Nissan Sentra for a traffic offense but that the driver of the vehicle would not pull over.
Following a brief pursuit of the Sentra down a number of county roads, the trooper conducted a vehicular maneuver that forced the Nissan to leave the road and come to a stop in a ditch.
But Johnson, who is representing Lewis’ family, said that he never got out of the vehicle, that he was unarmed, and shot while still inside. He also said that a tail light on the Nissan was not working.
“Mr. Lewis never got out of the vehicle, and the investigation will show that, mere seconds after the crash, he was shot to death — shot in the face and killed,” said Johnson, according to the Statesboro paper.
Thompson’s attorney, Keith Barber, would not comment on the case. But he told The Associated Press his client “has an excellent character.”
“I think he’s a fine trooper,” Barber told the AP. “I think at the end of the day he will be exonerated in this case.”
Thompson’s firing and murder charge come shortly after Georgia authorities have charged three white men with murder in the death of black youth Ahmaud Arbery earlier this year.
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