SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Federal authorities said Monday they are looking into the shooting death of a Black man by a Georgia state trooper, who tried to stop the motorist last year over a broken tail light.
The family of Julian Lewis have been urging federal investigators to take up the case after a grand jury in rural Screven County declined in June to indict the trooper on murder charges. Lewis’ son and family attorneys arrived in Savannah to meet with federal prosecutors Monday after concluding a 63-mile (100-kilometer) march that began last week at the shooting scene.
The office of acting U.S. Attorney David Estes issued a brief statement that federal prosecutors were “examining” the circumstances of Lewis’ death “in consultation with the FBI.” No further details were given.
Trooper Jacob G. Thompson was fired by the Georgia State Patrol and jailed on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault soon after Lewis’ death on Aug. 7, 2020. Thompson said Lewis tried to flee a traffic stop for a broken tail light. After a short chase, the trooper forced Lewis’ car into a ditch.
Thompson wrote in his incident report that he shot Lewis as the man was revving his engine and turning his steering wheel, as if he was trying to ram the trooper. But Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Dustin Peak later testified in court that was impossible. Peak said Lewis’ car battery disconnected when his vehicle hit the ditch, leaving the car inoperable.
The murder case in stalled in state court when a grand jury declined to indict Thompson. Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Daphne Totten, whose office was prosecuting the case, has not said whether she will try again to indict the former trooper.
After the grand jury failed to return an indictment, Thompson’s defense attorney, Keith Barber, said the former trooper was “only doing his job” to protect the public and “acted in self-defense” when he shot Lewis.