Attorney Eugene Felton Jr. speaks at a press conference on Dec. 23, 2015, in downtown Atlanta, where the Daniels family disputed police accounts of a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy’s shooting of Bobby Daniels. (Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com)
Photo: Ben Gray
Photo: Ben Gray

Douglas police shooting: Can video clear up convoluted case?

The decision whether to prosecute a Douglas County deputy for the December shooting of a Navy veteran and father of five could hinge on surveillance footage that captured the incident, the attorney for the dead man’s family said Friday.

Bobby Daniels died two days before Christmas as he tried to protect his son, Bias, from a potentially violent confrontation with deputies at a Douglasville mobile home park.

According to the GBI, which has completed its investigation, Bobby Daniels was shot after trying to wrestle his son’s gun away from him. One of the Douglas deputies on the scene fired after the gun was pointed in his direction, agents said.

Chris Stewart, who represents Daniels’ wife and children, disputes those findings, which have been turned over to Douglas District Attorney Brian Fortner. He said he believes the video will prove that Daniels, who worked as a security guard for CNN, should not have been shot.

But whether that video will yield answers is an open question. Fortner said the quality of the video, captured by one of the security cameras inside Arbor Village Mobile Home Park, is poor.

“We’ve already met with some individuals who in the past have had some success enhancing these kind of videos,” he said. “But I can’t say there’s a lot of hope.”

Regardless, Stewart told reporters Friday he believes there is enough evidence to charge Daniels’ shooter, Deputy James Barber.

“We have two eyewitnesses who said Mr. Daniels wasn’t even near the gun when the shooting happened,” Stewart said.

Then there are the varying narratives offered by Douglas Sheriff Phil Miller. Speaking to reporters on the night of the shooting, Miller said deputies encountered Bias and Bobby Daniels sitting in a car along with a relative, Garrett Daniels. Bias Daniels emerged from the car holding a gun, which a deputy took from him and placed on the vehicle’s hood as he attempted to handcuff the suspect.

A struggle ensued and, according to Miller, Bobby Daniels got out of the car, grabbed the gun from the hood and pointed it at the deputy. Daniels’ family disputes this, saying he would never point a gun at a police officer.

Later, the sheriff acknowledged that the elder Daniels was likely trying to defuse the situation. Despite that, Miller told The AJC two days after the shooting that Bobby Daniels ignored commands to stay inside his vehicle and, with a gun pointed at him, Barber “did what he had to do.”

Stewart noted there were multiple deputies on the scene but Barber was the only one to discharge his weapon.

Fortner provided no timetable on his decision. Ironically, the district attorney helped craft a bill before the Georgia General Assembly that would eliminate some of the special privileges law enforcement officers now receive in cases involving deadly shootings.

House Bill 941 would allow for the cross-examination of officers testifying before a grand jury. Presently, officers can give their accounts without questioning by prosecutors.

“The goal is to provide more transparency to the public,” Fortner said.

Last month, DeKalb Police Officer Robert Olsen became the first law enforcement officer since 2010 to be indicted for shooting a civilian.

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