The attorney for the parents of Nicholas Thomas, fatally shot in March by a Smyrna police officer, said the decision not to prosecute the veteran sergeant seemed “preordained.”
Mawuli Davis, the Thomases' layer, said the investigation into the March 24 shooting was tightly controlled from start to finish by Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds, who presented his findings Thursday to a grand jury that concluded Sgt. Kenneth Owens' use of deadly force was justified.
“There has not been a level of transparency,” as Reynolds promised, Davis said.
Nicholas Thomas’ mother said she learned Owens would not face charges on television, “the same way I found out my son was” killed.
Davis blasted the Cobb D.A. for meeting with the media Thursday before reaching out to his clients.
“Rather than have a private meeting with the family, they had a private meeting with the media,” said Davis, adding the Thomases felt “disrespected” by Reynolds.
“This is an absolute effort to control messaging,” he said.
And the message delivered to reporters was not altogether factual, said Davis, noting that a press release announcing the grand jury’s decision stated that Smyrna and Cobb police “attempted to arrest Mr. Thomas on a felony probation violation warrant.”
Thomas was actually being sought for a probation violation stemming from a conviction on a misdemeanor charge of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana.
Davis said he is eager to find out what evidence was presented to the grand jury. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has submitted an open-records request and was informed it would receive the entire case file sometime next week.
Of particular interest will be any information explaining why Owens felt compelled to shoot. Of the five officers dispatched to the Cumberland Parkway Goodyear, where Thomas worked, Owens was the only one to draw his gun.
Thomas tried to elude the officers, jumping into a customer’s Maserati, a detail neither side disputes. With the only exit blocked by police, Thomas drove around the building twice. Owens told investigators he shot at the Maserati because he feared Thomas was going to run over an officer who was behind him.
It’s a different narrative than the one provided immediately after the shooting, when Smyrna police told reporters Owens shot at Thomas to save himself.
Davis said it’s no coincidence Owens’ story changed after it was revealed the fatal bullet entered through Thomas’ back.
Co-counsel Rob Bozeman said he wants to know whether that other officer feared for his safety and, if so, why he didn’t feel the need to draw his gun.
“It seems obvious that officer could’ve defended his own life,” Bozeman said.
The Thomases’ lawyers said they have notified Smyrna police and Owens of their intent to file civil litigation.
Felicia Thomas said she will continue to pursue justice for her son, who left behind a young daughter.
“God has the last word, not Vic Reynolds,” she said.
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