The mother of a man killed by a Smyrna police officer urged a crowd of hundreds of supporters Tuesday not to view her son’s death as a wasted life.
“I feel in my spirit that my family is the chosen family,” Felicia Thomas said. “My son Nicholas Thomas did not die in vain; he died for change, and I believe Martin Luther King is looking down.”
The vigil for Thomas was at Smyrna City Hall. Thomas, 23, was shot March 24 outside the Cumberland Parkway Goodyear tire store where he worked after officers tried to serve him with an arrest warrant. Police contended he used a car as a weapon and Sgt. Kenneth Owens killed Thomas in self-defense. Owens has been with the Smyrna police since 2001.
Police said Thomas got into a customer’s Maserati and tried to run over officers rather than submit to arrest. Owens fired into the moving car, which came to a stop, police said.
After Thomas didn’t respond to orders to exit the car, police fired bean bag rounds to break out a heavily tinted window to look inside, where they saw Thomas was wounded.
He died at the scene.
Smyrna police issued a statement Tuesday vouching for Owens’ professionalism as a police officer. It said in part: “He has interacted with thousands of citizens, made hundreds of arrests, contacted numerous armed individuals, including barricaded suspects, and encountered numerous wanted felons. He has been involved in more than thirty-five foot or vehicle pursuits and has made more than 100 felony arrests.
“However, he has never before fired a weapon at anyone during the course of his sworn duties.”
A lawyer for the Thomas family has called for the GBI to conduct an independent investigation, a request denied by Smyrna police. Instead, the Cobb County Police Department, which provided backup during the incident, will lead the investigation and will work with the district attorney.
On Tuesday, Smyrna police’s statement said “it is our understanding” that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation will review the Cobb investigation, as will the Cobb County District Attorney.
Thomas’ mother said it is time for police to stop investigating themselves.
“I’m asking everybody, every politician in America to step in, because this has got to stop,” Felicia Thomas said after Monday’s meeting with Smyrna police.
On Tuesday she added: “This has got to end right here in Georgia — Martin Luther King state.
“GBI we need you now.”