Morehouse athletics official on leave after arrest in double shooting

Phillip Thomas, Morehouse's associate athletic director and director of football operations, was booked on charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Phillip Thomas, Morehouse's associate athletic director and director of football operations, was booked on charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Credit: Morehouse College

Credit: Morehouse College

An associate athletic director at Morehouse College has been placed on administrative leave after shooting two people — one intentionally — during a fight that started over “fraternity things,” authorities said.

Phillip Thomas, who served as the school’s associate athletic director and director of football operations, was booked into the Fulton County Jail last month on charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, online records show. The 51-year-old’s arrest stemmed from a double shooting May 15 during a fight at a northwest Atlanta home, according to an incident report and arrest warrants.

In a statement, a Morehouse spokesperson said the allegations against Thomas are unrelated to the college and that he was immediately placed on leave once school officials learned of the charges.

“Morehouse College expects staff members to exemplify our values on and off campus,” spokesman Cedric Mobley said in an emailed statement. “We have been made aware of the action taken by the City of Atlanta Police Department regarding Dr. Phillip Thomas based on allegations concerning events unrelated to Morehouse. He has been placed on administrative leave as we monitor the progress of the City of Atlanta Police Department’s investigation and conduct our own due diligence.”

Thomas’ contact information on the college’s website appeared to have been removed Tuesday following questions about his employment status. The university declined to say how long Thomas had worked there or if anyone has been hired to replace him.

Thomas' profile on the Morehouse website appears to have been removed.
Thomas' profile on the Morehouse website appears to have been removed.

Credit: Morehouse College website

Credit: Morehouse College website

According to the police report, officers were called to the home on South Elizabeth Place around midnight and learned two men had been taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds. One witness told police that Thomas and two others were arguing about fraternity issues when things escalated into a fight.

“After the two gentlemen separated, people started to disperse from inside the house,” according to the report. “The victim proceeded (to) walk outside and enter a vehicle. The witness stated she overheard the suspect state he was going to shoot the victim.”

Witnesses said a man involved in the earlier scuffle at some point got out of a Mercedes SUV and ran toward Thomas, who was standing outside the home. Another man stepped between the two to keep them apart, but lost his grip on the man as he charged toward Thomas, according to the incident report.

“This prompted the suspect to discharge his weapon at the (man) striking him in his stomach,” police wrote.

Witnesses told officers only one shot was fired, but that Thomas’ bullet passed through the man he was aiming at and hit the second in the right leg. Following the shooting, witnesses said Thomas picked up the man he shot unintentionally and put him in a car, according to the report. The second man was also taken to the hospital by private vehicle, authorities said.

At the hospital, a second witness told police he saw the gunshot victim run toward Thomas “with his hands in clear view” and told him, “You’re going to have to shoot me,” according to the report. He also told officers Thomas appeared to have his gun out as the man maneuvered around two or three other people to get to him.

A third witness told police it appeared Thomas reached into his car, grabbed his gun and loaded a magazine into it before covering the weapon with a white towel, according to the incident report. He then walked toward the front of the vehicle and “waited” for the man to approach him before firing, the witness told investigators.

Thomas told officers the man threatened to kill him before charging at him, and said the person he shot had one hand behind his back as he approached him, according to the incident report.

At the scene, police found blood on the ground and one .40-caliber shell casing, authorities said. Officers returned to the home the following afternoon after a woman discovered a Smith and Wesson magazine loaded with a dozen rounds on the back porch.

Thomas was booked into jail May 20 and released two days later on $15,000 bond, records show.

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