Atlanta police officer retires following murder indictment in 2019 shooting

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

An Atlanta police officer indicted in the 2019 shooting death of a teenager has retired, as he awaits an arraignment hearing.

Oliver Simmonds, who was assigned to former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ security detail, retired from the Atlanta Police Department effective Nov. 9. Simmonds was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury October 28 after the shooting death of 18-year-old D’Ettrick Griffin, accused of taking Simmonds’ unmarked car at a southwest Atlanta gas station.

ExploreAtlanta officer indicted on murder charge in teen’s 2019 shooting

Simmonds was charged with felony murder, aggravated assault and two counts of violating his oath. He turned himself in, was booked at the Fulton County Jail on Nov. 4 and released on the same day on a $50,000 bond, according to jail records.

Simmonds was initially assigned to an administrative role after the shooting. Department officials suspended him without pay following the indictment and an emergency hearing had been scheduled to determine his fate with the department.

A plea and arraignment hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30 in front of Judge Eric Dunaway. Simmonds is the latest police officer to be criminally charged as District Attorney Fani Willis works through a backlog of use-of-force cases.

Simmonds was off-duty and not wearing his uniform when he stopped to fill up his car at a gas station on the night of Jan. 15, 2019. Griffin allegedly jumped into Simmonds’ driver seat while he was pumping gas and took off, authorities said. It’s unclear if Griffin knew he was taking a police car.

Credit: Jonathan Hibbert

Credit: Jonathan Hibbert

According to the GBI, Griffin began to drive off before Simmonds tried to stop him, firing multiple shots at Griffin. The car traveled a short distance before crashing into two parked vehicles, with Griffin, who was unarmed, found dead inside.

Simmonds joined the police department in April 2010. He suffered a minor injury to his foot after he was allegedly run over during the encounter. The shooting brought to light a debate over when, or even if, officers should fire at fleeing vehicles.

ExploreLawsuit: Woman claims serious injuries after officer shot at car thief

According to Atlanta Police Department policy, officers are prohibited from firing their weapons to stop a fleeing vehicle but includes a broad exception that allows a “reasonable and necessary” use of force.

Upon learning of the indictment in October, Griffin’s family was overjoyed. The family has long argued that Simmonds used excessive force.

“Oh, this is what I prayed for,” his mother, Gaysha Glover, told Channel 2 Action News.

Simmonds’ attorney, Jackie Patterson, said the officer was defending himself that night and looks forward to clearing his name in court.

“We are disappointed in the grand jury’s decision, but fortunately a grand jury’s decision to indict someone is not evidence of anyone’s guilt,” Patterson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution following the indictment. “This entire incident occurred as a result of my client’s decision to defend himself. He had no choice but to fire upon this young man to save his own life. He would have been killed or seriously injured otherwise.”