‘We want answers’: Family says unarmed Cobb man killed during no-knock warrant incident

Johnny Bolton was fatally shot during a drug search in December

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Johnny Lorenzo Bolton hadn’t had the chance to meet his only granddaughter. He planned to celebrate with little Kaliyah on her first birthday in February.

He didn’t live to see her. Bolton, 49, was shot and killed by a Cobb County deputy attempting to serve a narcotics search warrant in the early morning hours of Dec. 17, according to the GBI. Months later, the grieving family demands answers.

“He hasn’t met my child and they took that away from him,” his daughter, Diamond Bolton, said Tuesday. “We just need answers and we want justice.”

Johnny Bolton was asleep on the sofa of a Smyrna-area apartment when members of the Marietta Cobb Smyrna Organized Crime Task Force and the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team executed a no-knock search warrant, the GBI has said. Bolton lived in the apartment and worked at a nearby carwash; the home served as an informal boarding house, according to his family. Women and children also lived in the Concord Chase apartment, according to Zack Greenamyre, one of two attorneys representing the Bolton family.

Credit: Bolton family photo

Credit: Bolton family photo

Bolton’s name did not appear in the application for a search warrant on reports of drug activity in the home. According to the officer who submitted the request, a confidential informant told investigators that heroin, marijuana and cocaine were being sold from the apartment. While working undercover, that informant was able to purchase cocaine from a man at the apartment, the search warrant application states.

Investigators also conducted surveillance of the apartment and witnessed drug transactions, it says.

On the morning Bolton was killed, he got up from the couch and put his hands up when police arrived, his family said they learned from others in the apartment. He was shot at least twice and died from his injuries.

Beyond those few details, Bolton’s relatives say they aren’t sure what happened, including who fired and what led to the shooting.

Greenamyre said Tuesday that the various law enforcement agencies involved have not responded to requests for information. After more than five months, Bolton’s loved ones deserve answers and are conducting their own investigation, he said.

“We will not be stopped from telling Johnny’s story,” Greenamyre said. “This is the start. And from what we know now, Johnny’s death appears unnecessary and unjustified.”

The GBI has released few details about the incident, but has completed its investigation and has forwarded findings to the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office. In a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office said the case will be presented to a grand jury, but declined to discuss specifics of the case.

“This case is an open and ongoing investigation,” the statement read. “As in all officer-involved shootings, we will be presenting it to a grand jury.”

The DA’s office previously prosecuted several unrelated cases against Bolton.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

From 1999 until 2010, Bolton served three times in state prisons for drug convictions for possession with intent to distribute marijuana and the sale or distribution of cocaine, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. From 2008 through June 2020, 20 arrest warrants were issued for Bolton - mostly misdemeanor, non-violent offenses, Cobb magistrate records show.

But the day he died, it wasn’t Bolton investigators wanted to find, his family’s attorney said. Three people authorities believed were suspects in drug sales were named in the warrant application; Bolton was not among them. Now, his relatives say it’s time for answers.

Bolton’s sister, Daphne Bolton, noted Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd. In that case, a report of a possibly counterfeit $20 bill being used at a grocery store summoned police to the ultimately fatal encounter. Former Minnesota Police Officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death and is scheduled to be sentenced June 25.

Three other ex-Minneapolis police officers face charges of aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, charges that carry up to 40 years in prison. Their trial starts Aug. 23.

“Unfortunately this storyline has played out too many times to recast, the sorrow and hurt of the death of my brother, Johnny Lorenzo Bolton by the hands of the police department is no different than the hurt and sorrow and pain felt across countless families in this world,” Daphne Bolton said during the Tuesday press conference. “At this point, our intentions surround actions and justice.”