A 25-year-old man drove a Maserati recklessly Tuesday afternoon and sped toward officers, prompting them to shoot the car, the Smyrna police department said Wednesday.
Initially, one officer fired into the moving car, which came to a stop, Sgt. E.R. Cason said. Officers then ordered Nicholas Taft Thomas out of the car, but got no response, Cason said in an emailed statement.
“Due to heavy window tint on the vehicle, officers could not see into the car,” Cason said. “Thus, the officers used less than lethal bean bag rounds in an attempt to break out the passenger side window and look into the car. This was done to increase visibility into the vehicle with the ultimate goal of ensuring officer safety and rendering first aid to Mr. Thomas.”
Thomas was pronounced dead at the scene.
“He was jumping the curve trying to get away, which I know is illegal, but he didn’t kill anybody,” Thomas’ father told Channel 2 Action News. “And from what I know, he’s not under a criminal warrant for murder, he’s not that type of kid.”
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Thomas was convicted last year of felony charges, but avoided prison time. Instead, he was sentenced to seven years, including 56 days in jail and the rest on probation, for aggravated assault against a police officer.
But Thomas had allegedly violated his probation, and an arrest warrant was issued for him, according to police. Smyrna and Cobb police both arrived Tuesday around 1:30 p.m. to serve the warrant to Thomas at the Goodyear store on Cumberland Parkway, where he worked.
That’s when, according to police, Thomas got into a white, four-door Maserati and drove around the building several times at a high rate of speed.
Minutes later, Thomas was dead. He was shot and killed by Smyrna police, who said Thomas tried to run down the officers.
Thomas had a history of running from police, according to records obtained from metro police agencies. And, in at least one prior case, he drove a car toward an officer.
A witness, who asked not to be named out of safety concerns, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday he watched from inside a nearby Starbucks as the man was killed. The man, who lives in the area, said he’s shocked at what he called a “horrific and unjustifiable” killing.
“If they were in imminent danger, why were they shooting so close to the car?” the witness said.
Court and jail documents show that Thomas has numerous arrests in several metro Atlanta jurisdictions, and that he pleaded guilty last year in Cobb County Superior Court to a March 2013 charge of aggravated assault on a peace officer.
In that case, the grand jury alleged that Thomas assaulted a Kennesaw State University police officer by “driving and accelerating his motor vehicle at” the officer after Officer S.A. Feinauer attempted a traffic stop on Thomas for speeding.
Thomas also pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to elude police, driving with a suspended license, having no proof of insurance and having an improper license plate in connection with that incident, and was sentenced to seven years, with 56 days in jail and the rest on probation.
Then in November, an arrest warrant was issued for Thomas in Clayton County for allegedly violating probation in that county, records showed. In March 2014, he was given probation for a drug charge and making false statements, records showed. When he violated terms of the probation, another arrest warrant was issued for Thomas.
Also in Thomas’ criminal past, he was arrested by Forest Park police and charged with burglary and obstructing an officer in September 2013.
Two years earlier, he was arrested by Atlanta police on 16 traffic charges that included leaving the scene of an accident, fleeing and attempting to elude police, reckless driving and aggressive driving.
Thomas was also booked into the Fulton County Jail in May 2012 on an unspecified charge by Lawrenceville police, in June 2012 on a charge by Atlanta police of theft by receiving stolen property, and in September 2013 for failing to appear in court on identity theft charges.
He was booked into the Gwinnett County Jail in July 2011 on charges of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and operating a vehicle without a tag or decal and in May 2012 for violating probation.
It was not known Wednesday who owned the high-end luxury car that Thomas was in when he was killed.
The Cobb police department is investigating the shooting. The officer involved has been placed on administrative leave.