DA will not indict Coweta deputy who shot man through windshield after chase

Combined ShapeCaption
A man is in critical condition after a police chase and car wreck led to an officer-involved shooting in Coweta County, according to the GBI. A deputy said he shot Nicholas Bolton, 34, while trying to keep him from hitting another deputy with a car, according to GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles. The shooting happened at the Newnan Crossing Shopping Center near Bullsboro Drive about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Miles said. A deputy was on patrol at the shopping center when he noticed a car parked in the lot behind the T-Mobile cellphone store, Miles said. The deputy notified dispatch and got out of his patrol car to investigate. -By Asia Simone Burns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A Coweta County deputy will not face charges stemming from a June 2019 incident in which he shot a man in the head — blinding him in one eye and nearly killing him — after a chase, authorities said.

District Attorney Herb Cranford announced Friday afternoon that Deputy John Collins will not be indicted, effectively ending the criminal case. The decision comes after a grand jury came to the same conclusion, Cranford said.

Collins was placed on administrative leave after the June 30 shooting, which put Nicholas Sherod Bolton in the hospital, AJC.com previously reported. Bolton was shot in the head and lost vision in his right eye, but he has “made a miraculous recovery,” Cranford said in a news release.

RELATED: Coweta County deputy shoots man after chase and crash, GBI says

The shooting garnered statewide attention and prompted the GBI to release body camera footage from three officers to show what took place.

After the footage was released, the sheriff’s office defended its deputy, saying his use of deadly force was “necessary and justified.”

MORE: Coweta County sheriff defends deputy's shooting after seeing body camera footage

The incident began with Bolton inside an SUV in a parking lot at the Newnan Crossing Shopping Center. A deputy, who was on patrol nearby, spotted the parked vehicle and got out of his patrol car to investigate.

Bolton, who was described as “virtually homeless” by his attorney at the time, was asleep in the backseat. After the deputy approached and shined his flashlight through a window, Bolton climbed into the front seat, the footage showed.

The deputy said Bolton was loitering, adding that “now that you’re not stepping out of the car, you’re obstructing an investigation. So you can either get out and talk to us, or we can take you out and go to jail.”

The deputy repeated the options to Bolton, which is when the man shifted the vehicle into drive and began to pull away. A deputy pointed a gun at Bolton’s vehicle as he pulled off, but no shots were fired.

Instead, several deputies chased the SUV. Less than a minute later, Collins used a PIT maneuver to stop the vehicle, which is when things quickly escalated.

RELATED: Dashcam video shows tense moments before fatal shooting

Combined ShapeCaption
Deputy John Collins

Deputy John Collins

Combined ShapeCaption
Deputy John Collins

Deputies appeared to try to box in Bolton’s car using a patrol car, and as Collins walked over to confront Bolton, the deputy fired one shot. The GBI said Collins fired “after he saw what he believed to be Bolton actively trying to drive his vehicle in the direction” of a second deputy.

According to Cranford, Bolton’s vehicle was facing Collins and the second deputy, and it had the capability of being steered toward either deputy. The DA added that data retrieved from Bolton’s vehicle showed his accelerator was being pressed between 71% and 100% at the time Collins fired at him.

Cranford said the video and pictures of the scene show that the tires on Bolton’s vehicle were squealing and leaving marks when Collins decided to use deadly force. After Bolton was shot, the tires stopped squealing, and no other shots were fired.

After Bolton was shot in the head, he was taken to Atlanta Medical Center. No weapon was found inside the vehicle, but Collins is heard saying on the video that he believed Bolton was trying to run over him and the other deputy.

Cranford and the grand jury agreed that Bolton’s vehicle presented “an imminent danger” to Collins and the other deputy.

“This is because Bolton’s vehicle was capable of striking either deputy or pushing either patrol vehicle into either deputy,” Cranford said in the release.

The sheriff’s office asked the GBI to investigate the officer-involved shooting. After the GBI concluded its investigation in September, its findings were handed over to Cranford’s office for potential prosecution.

He opted to present the unindicted case to a civil grand jury for their review, which is possible when a case involves a peace officer's use of deadly force, according to Georgia law.

In preparation for the grand jury, Cranford met with Bolton, who also participated in an interview with the GBI that was played for the jurors. In total, the grand jury was shown 64 exhibits as evidence.

On Feb. 4, the grand jury issued its report, which concluded with the request for no indictment against Collins.

“The District Attorney agrees with the Grand Jury’s assessment and recommendation that an indictment should not be presented against John Taylor Collins ...,” Cranford said in the release. “... the State would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Collins was unjustified in using deadly force to prevent deaths or great bodily harm to himself or (the second deputy).”

AJC.com has reached out to Bolton’s legal team for comment regarding Cranford’s decision.