Suspect in trooper shooting could face death penalty

The man accused of shooting and killing a Georgia State Patrol trooper may have gone in and out of the Fulton County jail's revolving door for eleven years, but Gregory Favor's latest trip to jail is likely to be his last.

Legal experts say that the slaying of Trooper First Class Chadwick LeCroy meets all the requirements for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in Georgia. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard has yet to comment on the case. But killing a law enforcement officer in the line of duty is generally regarded as one of the most heinous crimes an individual can commit, said Dan Summer, a former assistant district attorney in the Northeastern Judicial District who is now a defense attorney.

"That is the one particular type of homicide that almost demands that the death penalty be sought because of the need for law enforcement officers to be supported by district attorneys and the community at large," said Summer. "You just cannot have a civilized society in which people kill law enforcement officers in the lawful discharge of their duties."

Don Samuel, a prominent Atlanta defense attorney, agreed. Samuel has tried death penalty cases and successfully defended Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in his 2000 double-murder trial.

"I would think Paul would more than likely seek the death penalty," Samuel said. "Generally individuals who knowingly kill a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, those are pretty classic cases for someone to seek it."

Favors, 30 of Atlanta, pleaded not guilty and waived his right to a first appearance hearing on Wednesday. His defense attorney, Michael Mann, said he had not yet been notified whether the state intends to seek the death penalty.

Even though Favors has been in and out of the Fulton County jail 18 times dating back to 1999, Mann said his client seemed depressed and scared.

"Obviously facing charges like this, anybody would be scared," said Mann.

Court records pertaining to Favors' most recent arrest on Dec. 10 indicate that on the Monday night LeCroy was shot, Favors was free on bond while facing felony charges of criminal attempt to enter an auto, possession of tools for the commission of a crime, cocaine possession and two counts of obstructing a police officer.

A police officer had spotted Favors and another man using a broken antenna to break into a 2004 Ford Mustang in Atlanta. When police tried to confront them, Favors ran away, according to court records. He was captured a short time later, but released on bond after three days in jail.

Fulton Chief Judge Cynthia Wright said in a written statement that the Superior Court Pretrial Services had recommended Favors not be released. She said the judges were “saddened” by the shooting, but the judges declined to opine further on the case since it will likely be coming before them. Wright said the court is currently reviewing information related to the suspect and his history in the Atlanta Judicial Circuit.

Mann said he has represented Favors in the past and all his offenses have been nonviolent. The crime he is accused of committing is out of character for Favors, his attorney added.

"It's easy to put up 18 arrests and say this is a bad person, therefore he must have done this," Mann said. "But bad people are sometimes innocent of what they are accused of and good people are sometimes guilty of some things they are charged with."

Favors was supposed to have been in court at 9 a.m. on Monday to enter a plea to charges stemming from the attempted car break-in.

He didn’t show up.

Some 14 hours later, LeCroy pulled up behind Favors’ black Mazda 6 in theBolton Road-James Jackson Parkway area. The trooper turned on his blue lights for a traffic stop because one of the Mazda’s taillights was out.

That automatically activated the dashboard camera in LeCroy’s patrol car. The entire chase, shooting and attempted getaway were recorded, according to an affidavit filed by Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent A.B. Johnston.

The Mazda initially pulled over, but it sped off as LeCroy approached the driver’s side. That initiated an eight-mile chase that ended when the driver crashed into a brick mailbox on St. Paul Avenue in northwest Atlanta, the affidavit said.

The camera recorded LeCroy walking up to the car again after the crash, first toward the driver’s side, then to the rear and finally to the passenger’s side.

“The driver then leaned out of the passenger side window and fired a handgun at Trooper LeCroy," Johnston wrote.

The 38-year-old Marietta father and husband was fatally wounded in the neck.

The video showed the driver exit the Mazda with a gun in his hand and attempt to move the mailbox. He eventually gave up, got into LeCroy’s marked patrol car and drove off with the camera still actively recording..

Johnston wrote: “The driver left the scene of the shooting, leaving Trooper LeCroy on the ground near the passenger’s side of the Mazda 6.”

LeCroy’s State Patrol car was abandoned on Gun Club Road, about seven miles from the shooting.

A bulletin was posted and soon after, two Atlanta police officers saw Favors walking on Hollywood Road about a half mile from where the patrol car was abandoned. He matched the description that the person wanted for shooting LeCroy. He also had the keys to a Mazda.

An APD spokesman said Favors ran when officers approached him and he tossed a gun onto the top of an apartment building as he went by. The encounter was followed a brief struggle and Favors was arrested.

Police later recovered a Smith & Wesson 9 mm semi-automatic handgun on the roof. LeCroy was shot with a 9 mm, according to his autopsy.

During the interview, Johnston noticed that Favors had blood on his hands, which he claimed came from a fight with his girlfriend.

Betty Murphy, who was married to LeCroy's stepfather and is the mother of his two stepsisters, said the immediate family was visiting the funeral home Wednesday to make arrangements for his memorial service and was not preoccupied with Favors' case. The funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.

Marietta Police are warning the public to expect heavy traffic in and around the Marietta Square on Friday as family and law enforcement colleagues gather to pay tribute.

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"He gave his all, that’s' the way I feel," Murphy said. "He gave his all for all of us and that's what policemen do every day when they go in."

Staff writers Bill Rankin and John Spink contributed to this article.