An Atlanta police car with broken windows and a bullet hole in the windshield sits on Pryor Street in downtown Atlanta where police say a woman who was in custody began shooting at officers from the back seat of the patrol car Thursday evening April 30, 2015. The suspect, who police say they found in a stolen car, died after being transported to the hospital. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com
Photo: Ben Gray
Photo: Ben Gray

Family of woman killed after firing at APD questions procedures

Family and friends of Alexia Christian gathered Saturday near where she died two days earlier after Atlanta Police officers shot her while she was in the back of a patrol car.

Police say Christian, 26, fired at officers first, after escaping from handcuffs in the back of the police cruiser. Christian’s mother and grandfather said she did not deserve to die and that APD failed to follow proper procedure.

“If you look at her arrests, she was not in there for no violent crimes,” Felecia Christian said of her daughter. “She might have stolen a car here or there; she was a wild child. She didn’t do anything that would deserve her to be dead. She did nothing to deserve death.”

APD declined to comment on the family’s remarks Saturday.

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said Friday that Christian managed to free one hand while handcuffed and used a stolen gun to fire three shots at two officers. The officers were not hit, and instead returned fire, hitting Alexia Christian in the car, parked near Underground Atlanta.

Christian, a mother of two, died after being taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.

The officers involved, Jeffery Cook and Omar Thyme, had responded to a request from Fulton County Police about a possible stolen white Ford truck seen in downtown Atlanta. The driver, later identified as Christian, was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car, Turner said. But she was not extensively searched, he said.

“It was clear to us the officer did not search her prior to putting her in the back of the car,” Turner said Friday.

And that was a crucial mistake, Lucius Christian, the woman’s grandfather said Saturday.

“She wasn’t supposed to be gunned down like that,” he said. “That was very ugly. They were supposed to have searched her. She didn’t even weigh 100 pounds. You can’t see a gun on a 100-pound person? It shouldn’t have never happened.”

Lucius Christian, of southwest Atlanta, questioned whether his granddaughter actually had a gun.

“She shouldn’t have, if she did,” he said. “If she did, it was their fault. It wasn’t hers. She was in city police custody. The minute they put handcuffs on her, the minute she entered the back seat of that police car, she was in police custody.”

Christian said he has spoken with attorneys but declined to say if the family plans to seek civil penalties against the officers, the police department or the city. But, he made clear he believes the police should face punishment.

“If they’re found guilty, which I feel they are, they should be held accountable by all means,” he said.

Chief Turner said it was not known whether the officers patted down Christian at all. As officers asked Christian her name, she fired three shots, narrowly missing the officers, Major Darryl Tolleson said Friday. Cook and Thyme “missed getting killed by an inch,” Tolleson said.

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Staff writer Alexis Stevens contributed to this article.