Felicia and Huey Thomas, parents of Nicholas Thomas, with attorney Mawuli Mel Davis at Thursday news conference. (TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@COXINC.COM)

Update: GBI to investigate shooting of driver by Smyrna officer

In a surprising twist, the GBI, not Cobb County police, will lead the investigation into last week’s shooting of an unarmed Goodyear employee by Smyrna police.

Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds said Thursday his office, along with Cobb police, requested the GBI take over the investigation into the death of Nicholas Thomas, 23. The move came three days after Thomas’ parents met with Smyrna’s police chief, who told them Cobb would lead the probe.

Smyrna police were attempting to arrest Thomas March 24, at the Cumberland Parkway Goodyear for a probation violation warrant. Police say Thomas tried to run over officers in a customer’s Maserati, though lawyers hired by the dead man’s family have challenged the official account.

In a Thursday afternoon press conference, attorney Mawuli Mel Davis called the announcement a “first victory” and said he and the family were “surprised and encouraged.”

“We believe that the community, the people, have spoken,” he said, “and we’re glad that someone has begun to listen to what the people are saying is a fair process.”

Davis said the family plans to request an independent autopsy and a meeting with the GBI.

Thomas’ father, Huey, called for “policy change,” saying he wants the GBI involved any time there is an officer-involved shooting in Georgia. Thomas’ mother, Felicia, had a more simple message.

“God is good,” she said.

District attorney Reynolds, who met with GBI Director Vernon Keenan on Wednesday, said the move was made “in the spirit of transparency and openness.”

The GBI’s findings will then be turned over to the district attorney’s office for review, Reynolds said.

Thomas was the second unarmed man to die last month following confrontations with metro Atlanta police officers. Anthony Hill, who suffered from bipolar disorder, was shot and killed March 9 by a DeKalb County officer who alleged the Afghanistan war veteran charged him in a threatening manner.

The GBI is also investigating Hill’s death.

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