An off-duty U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer who authorities say shot and killed a man in the parking lot of a Douglasville Walmart will not face charges, Douglas County District Attorney Ryan Leonard said Monday.
The incident happened about 12:50 p.m. on Feb. 17. Surveillance footage shows O.L. Jones step out of his car and shoot 45-year-old Johnathan Liddell of Austell in the parking lot of the store on Thornton Road.
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Leonard said he worked with the Douglas County sheriff and Douglasville chief of police and determined Jones was justified in the fatal shooting.
“What he did is not unlawful, and it doesn’t cause us to question his motives,” Leonard said.
Jones was headed to Walmart to go grocery shopping with his wife and children, the district attorney said. Jones told investigators he and his wife felt that Liddell was following them and were concerned for their safety.
Jones pulled into a parking space and Liddell parked next to him, surveillance footage shows. Jones then stepped out of his car and fired through Liddell’s rear right window, striking him once in the chest. Liddell was found dead in his car by investigators.
Leonard said evidence indicates that Jones fired after he noticed Liddell was pointing a gun at him. Jones told investigators that when he stepped out of his car, Liddell was turned around in his seat, holding a gun.
“(Liddell) was shot in the chest,” Leonard said, “and the only way to get shot in the chest by a man standing behind him is to be turned around, facing him.”
Press conference announcing no charges being filed in Walmart shooting incident. Douglas County Sheriff's Office (Georgia) Douglas County District Attorney's Office https://t.co/l4yPBO9S52— Douglasville Police (@Douglasville_PD) February 25, 2019
The weapon found in Liddell’s possession was determined to be an airsoft gun. However, Leonard said it appeared to be a real gun, and Jones’ concern for his safety and the safety of his family was understandable. He said Jones responded “reasonably” in the situation, according to standards used to determine if use of force by a law enforcement officer is justified by law.
“It doesn’t mean you have to respond perfectly. It doesn’t mean that you have to respond beyond question or beyond reproach,” Leonard said. “It is a low standard.”
AJC.com previously reported that Jones works in the Enforcement and Removal Operations division of ICE.
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