DeKalb DA decides not to prosecute state trooper who shot, killed man in Edgewood

Credit: WSBTV Videos

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DeKalb DA says newly aired video shows cause for trooper to open fire on man speeding away in car

Credit: WSBTV Videos

After seeing body camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in January 2020, DeKalb County’s top prosecutor has decided not to press charges against the state trooper who fatally shot a man in a stolen car.

Andrew “A.J.” Smyrna Jr., 32, of Ellenwood, was driving a stolen Chevrolet Camaro convertible in Atlanta’s Edgewood neighborhood when he was spotted by police on Jan. 23, 2020, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.

After Atlanta police requested assistance from the Georgia State Patrol, an Atlanta officer and GSP trooper Brandon Byrd together attempted to stop Smyrna. As they closed in on the Camaro, Smyrna tried to drive away with Byrd standing next to the car, prompting the trooper to fire his weapon, authorities said. The Camaro struck Byrd’s patrol car and drove away before crashing at the end of the street.

No officers were injured in the incident.

ExploreGBI identifies man shot, killed by state trooper in Edgewood

Body camera footage from the Atlanta Police Department obtained by Channel 2 Action News shows the incident much more clearly than before. However, the same footage that led DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston not to press charges also left Smyrna’s family “appalled,” his father told Channel 2.

“It was a very difficult decision,” Boston said. “The key factor, in this case, was whether the vehicle driven by Mr. Smyrna could be used as an offensive weapon against the police officer. Absolutely, that car was in a position to hit, hurt and possibly kill Trooper Byrd.

“This was a split-second decision that Trooper Byrd had to make.”

Added Byrd, “(Smyrna) was going to do anything he had to, to get me out of his way.”

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Georgia State Patrol trooper Brandon Byrd will not be charged.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Georgia State Patrol trooper Brandon Byrd will not be charged.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia State Patrol trooper Brandon Byrd will not be charged.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Smyrna’s mother, Ingrid Smryna, started a petition weeks ago urging elected officials to charge Byrd. The family said it intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

“It’s sickening to watch the video,” the family’s attorney, Thomas Reynolds, told Channel 2. “After seeing the video, there is no justifiable way that he could’ve been in fear for his life when he is standing and shooting from the passenger side of the vehicle and the vehicle is traveling the other way.”

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DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said: “It was a very difficult decision."

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said: “It was a very difficult decision."

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Combined ShapeCaption
DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said: “It was a very difficult decision."

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

In her petition, Ingrid Smyrna noted the several shots fired by Byrd and his positioning near the passenger-side door of the Camaro. The GBI’s statement at the time mentioned that A.J. Smyrna had multiple gunshot wounds but did not specify how many rounds Byrd fired during the incident.

“When I go to visit my son, very often and speak with him, I feel like he wants me to continue this fight,” Ingrid Smryna said.

Byrd’s lawyer, Don English, told Channel 2 there was no legal basis for a wrongful death suit, and noted that Byrd attempted to give first aid to Smyrna.

ExploreAtlanta police alter ‘no-chase’ policy

Although Boston decided not to press charges against Byrd, she sent a memo to the state commissioner for the Department of Public Safety in which she said she believed Smyrna’s death could have been prevented. In the memo, Boston questioned why state troopers are not issued body-worn cameras. She also raised the issue of the APD’s “no chase” policy, which has since been altered. Finally, she requested additional training for state troopers.

Boston said her office has agreed to a meeting with the DPS to discuss body-worn cameras for troopers.

“It’s a tragedy, a travesty, and we will get our day in court,” Reynolds said.