Morehouse College sued after shooting involving ex-athletics official

Judge dismissed criminal charges, saying shooting occurred in self defense

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the dismissal of criminal charges.

A Texas man injured in a 2021 shooting at an off-campus cookout is suing Morehouse College and its former associate athletics director, who allegedly shot the fellow fraternity member during a dispute.

Kendrick Cooper filed the civil suit last week in Fulton County. He’s seeking payment for medical expenses, lost wages and other damages from the private Atlanta college and from Phillip Thomas, 53.

In a related criminal case, a Fulton County judge on Thursday dismissed all five felony charges against Thomas and closed that case after determining Thomas acted in self defense.

Cooper’s civil lawsuit alleges Thomas attended the weekend party as both an individual and as an employee of Morehouse’s athletic program. In a 2021 statement, the college said Thomas was placed on leave once officials learned of the charges, which Morehouse said were unrelated to the school. Thomas testified in April that he was unemployed.

Morehouse doesn’t comment on pending litigation, said Karen Miller, senior vice president and chief administrative officer.

“However, we want to assure our stakeholders and the public that we will vigorously defend ourselves in this case,” Miller said in a written statement Wednesday.

Credit: Morehouse College

Credit: Morehouse College

Thomas told the court at an April hearing for the criminal case that he fired one shot in self-defense in fear for his life as Cooper ran towards him, lunged at him and said he would kill Thomas. Thomas said the shooting happened as he prepared to leave a party attended by fellow Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers from different chapters.

According to court testimony and records, the bullet passed through Cooper and struck the leg of Christopher Swain, who was hosting the barbecue at his Atlanta house.

In his order to dismiss the criminal case, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney wrote that Cooper has a background as a “mixed martial arts warrior” who has fought competitively. The judge also detailed “violent” episodes from earlier the day of the incident in which Cooper allegedly fought separately with Thomas and another partygoer, putting both in chokeholds.

McBurney noted that after firing the one shot, Thomas drove Swain to Grady Memorial Hospital and stayed to speak with police about what had happened.

Chinwe Foster, who represented Thomas in the criminal case, said Cooper’s behavior during the gathering “was problematic.”

Foster added: “Any lawsuit filed by him is completely frivolous.”

Cooper has incurred medical costs of more than $442,000 and “sustained severe internal and external injuries,” according to the civil suit.