Man blinded by deputy’s gunshot sues Coweta sheriff, 3 deputies

Irwin Bolton Jr. addressed the media in 2019, saying his brother Nicholas was not breathing on his own days after a Coweta County deputy shot him in the head after a car chase. 
From left: Tanya Miller, Irwin Bolton Sr., Irwin Bolton Jr., Gerald Griggs.

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Irwin Bolton Jr. addressed the media in 2019, saying his brother Nicholas was not breathing on his own days after a Coweta County deputy shot him in the head after a car chase. From left: Tanya Miller, Irwin Bolton Sr., Irwin Bolton Jr., Gerald Griggs.

A man who survived being shot in the head by a Coweta County deputy during a car chase, but lost vision in one eye, is now suing the county’s sheriff and three deputies, claiming they used excessive force during the incident.

Nicholas Sherod Bolton was shot in the head on June 30, 2019, after he led Coweta sheriff’s deputies on a brief car chase, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. Bolton lost vision in his right eye but otherwise “made a miraculous recovery,” Coweta District Attorney Herb Cranford later said.

Deputy John Collins, the man who fired the shot, was not indicted on criminal charges after the case was reviewed by a Grand Jury in May 2020, Cranford said in a news release at the time. In the aftermath of the shooting, the case garnered statewide attention and led the GBI to release body camera footage of the incident.

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More than a year after officials chose not to indict Collins, Bolton has filed a civil rights lawsuit against him, as well as Coweta Sheriff Lenn Wood and two other deputies who were involved in the incident. Bolton’s suit claims that there was “no factual or legal justification at any time for the degree of force used by defendant Collins when he shot plaintiff Bolton in the head, without warning...”

The suit also claims that Bolton “posed no objectively reasonable threat” to Collins or the other deputies.

The incident began when a sheriff’s deputy saw Bolton sleeping in the back seat of his car in the parking lot of a Newnan shopping center, the AJC previously reported. The deputy shined his flashlight on Bolton, who was described by his attorney as “virtually homeless,” and Bolton climbed into the front seat of his car.

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, but Bolton shifted his car into gear and drove away.

Several other deputies quickly gave chase, and less than one minute later, Collins performed a PIT maneuver to stop Bolton’s SUV. Other deputies attempted to box in the SUV with their patrol cars as Collins walked towards Bolton.

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According to the DA Cranford, Bolton was pressing his accelerator, causing his tires to spin while his SUV faced Collins and another deputy. When Collins fired his weapon, the SUV’s tires stopped. Collins can be heard on the video saying that he believed Bolton was trying to run over him and the other deputy.

Cranford and the Grand Jury agreed that Bolton’s SUV presented “an imminent danger” to Collins and the other deputy, justifying the use of lethal force.

Though Collins was not indicted on criminal charges, he was named in Bolton’s civil suit along with the sheriff and two other deputies. The burden of proof for showing that a peace officer used excessive force is lower in a civil suit than in a criminal case, which requires the plaintiff to prove their claim beyond a reasonable doubt.

It’s not clear what damages Bolton’s legal team is seeking in this suit. Bolton’s law firm, Prieto, Marigliano, Holbert & Prieto has not responded to a request from the AJC.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.