Cobb police release statement about shooting that killed 17-year-old

Vincent Truitt was shot twice in the back July 13 after exiting a stolen car following a chase.
Vincent Truitt was shot twice in the back July 13 after exiting a stolen car following a chase.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Family demands video be made public, calls for police chief’s firing

The Cobb County Police Department on Tuesday broke its silence about an officer-involved shooting in July that left a 17-year-old dead following a chase.

The emailed statement came hours after the family of Vincent Truitt held a news conference calling for the firing of police Chief Tim Cox and demanding that the video of the teen’s fatal shooting be made public.

Truitt was shot twice in the back July 13 after exiting a stolen car following the chase on Riverside Parkway near Austell, AJC.com previously reported. He was one of three teens inside the vehicle that was spotted by police about 11:20 p.m., authorities said.

“Mr. Truitt was armed with a handgun (in his hand) as he exited the vehicle,” Cobb police Sgt. Wayne Delk said in the statement. “An officer running toward him observed the weapon and responded by drawing his issued weapon and firing two shots, striking Mr. Truitt both times.”

Explore1 teen dead, 2 others arrested after officer-involved shooting in Cobb

On Tuesday, authorities confirmed that the GBI has closed its investigation into the shooting and turned its findings over to the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office for review.

Last week, outgoing Cobb DA Joyette Holmes met with the teen’s family at her office and showed them footage of the fatal shooting. It was the first time Truitt’s loved ones were able to see for themselves what happened after months of demanding that the officer’s dashboard and body camera video be released.

Gerald Griggs, the attorney representing Truitt’s family, said the video shows the teen running away when he was shot and proves that the officer was never in any danger. AJC.com has not seen the video in question.

ExploreFamily appeals to Cobb officials to release video from fatal police shooting

“As he was exiting the vehicle and running away, at no point did he turn and face the officer,” Griggs told AJC.com, adding the fact that a handgun was later found in Truitt’s possession is not being disputed.

“Are they saying he pointed it at them or fired it at them? Because merely getting out of a vehicle in Georgia with a handgun does not necessitate death,” Griggs said. “This officer should be terminated and charged with murder. At no point in Georgia do you get an opportunity to shoot somebody in their back — period — and not get charged with something."

At Tuesday’s news conference, Truitt’s mother Venethia Cook-Lewis told supporters her "poor baby never saw it coming.”

“He was running away,” she said. “Since when did running away become a death sentence?”

Truitt, who had been a passenger in the stolen vehicle, climbed across the center console before getting out of the driver’s-side door and attempting to run, Griggs said.

“He turns directly in the direction that he’s going to run and takes three steps, at which point you hear two shots,” according to the attorney. “He’s not running toward any officers. You don’t even see his face. All you see is his back and then you see two shots into his back.”

The attorney said he was not able to see the teen’s gun in the body camera footage.

Truitt was still conscious following the shooting, according to Griggs, and can be heard in the video telling the officer his name and asking why he shot him. The officer then mentions the gun.

Griggs said the video also shows Truitt telling the officer, “I’m dying, man.”

According to Griggs' account, the officers removed the teen’s pants and shirt while searching for the gunshot wounds. They also appeared to perform CPR on him while the 17-year-old was still conscious, he said.

“All while he’s still coherent,” Griggs said. “You can tell he’s starting to go out, but he’s still moaning, he’s still gargling. Then they start doing chest compressions while he’s on his back.”

In its statement, Cobb police said the department “recognizes that the loss of any and all life is tragic," but said it respectfully disagrees with some of the characterizations of events surrounding the police shooting.

“The process of handing over the investigation of our officer-involved shootings to an outside, independent agency is born of the public’s desire for transparent, unbiased and objective investigations of any use of deadly force by our officers,” the statement read. “We understand this investigation has taken a considerable amount of time. However, we believe it is necessary for the investigative process to move forward and to allow the district attorney’s office and ultimately a grand jury to render a decision in this matter. We will not rush ahead of the process as it is appropriate that all facts and details in this case be examined.”

Holmes, the Republican Cobb DA who showed Truitt’s family the police footage, lost her election bid last week, according to unofficial results. The former chief magistrate judge was appointed to the position by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year to complete the term of former DA Vic Reynolds, who stepped down to serve as GBI director.

Holmes was defeated by Democrat Flynn Broady, who previously served as Cobb’s assistant solicitor general and may now inherit the case.

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