COBB COUNTY, Ga. — As the Smyrna Police Department identified the officer who shot unarmed black man Nicholas Thomas to death at his job at Goodyear in suburban Atlanta, the attorneys for the grieving family remain dissatisfied with the Smyrna and Cobb County departments for being vague and evasive regarding the information surrounding the killing.
Smyrna Police Sgt. Kenneth Owens has been identified as the officer who fatally shot Nicholas Thomas last week, the Smyrna Police Department announced Monday. Owens has been with the department since September 2001 and currently serves as a sergeant with the Street Crimes Unit.
Thomas, 23, was killed outside Goodyear Tire in the 2400 block of Cumberland Parkway. He was killed while police officers from Smyrna and Cobb County tried to serve an arrest warrant. Witnesses say Thomas was in a customer’s Maserati when police told him to stop, but he didn’t. According to Smyrna police, at one point Thomas backed the car toward the officers. Other accounts dispute the police claim.
Attorney Robert Bozeman said officers were very vague and not being “forward” with information. “It was a matter of fact (as in) ‘we are going to do this the right way, but we determine what the right way is. And we believe the right way is to allow the Cobb County Police Department to conduct this investigation.’”
Bozeman said the family wants an independent body to take over the investigation. “Of course, we disagree with that being ‘the right way.’ But … there was no negotiation. It was more like ‘this is the way it is.’ Just a matter of fact.”
During the press conference outside the Smyna Police Department, Thomas family dissolved into tears when trying address the media.
“I’m just telling everybody this is some serious stuff,” said Nicholas Thomas’s mother, Felicia Thomas. “This goes above Smyrna, above Marietta, above Georgia. This is an American problem. Police have got to stop investigating themselves.
“My son did not die in vain. He died for change. So I’m asking everyone to step up,” Felicia Thomas continued as her husband looked on. “Do you want your child to be next?!?”
Bozeman from the Davis-Bozeman Law firm reiterated that the investigative body continue to be vague and evasive during their meeting Monday afternoon.
“They wouldn’t even confirm they had surveillance cameras, only offering to allow us to email the investigators where other video cameras could have been, such as the Home Depot adjacent to Goodyear,” he said. “There are about three place there are cameras” that could have captured the circumstances leading up to the shooting.
Among the other disputes of the violent episode are:
- The attorneys acknowledge that Thomas was trying to flee the scene. But, at dispute is the officers’ account that Thomas made an aggressive move with the vehicle towards the officers, which officers say prompted the fatal shooting.
- That police and the media said Thomas jumped into the car when he saw the officers. Thomas, according to the manager, was already in the car that got shot up by officer. “From my understanding, from my interview with the manager, he was given a work order” and was already in the car, Bozeman said. “This was not a case of ‘I saw the cop and I’m going to jump into the first customers’ car that I see. That’s not what happened. That’s been misreported. According to the manager, he was where he was supposed to be.”
- The attorneys said the police brass did not make it clear if the warrant the officers were trying to serve on Thomas was for a violent crime or not.
- Furthermore, they refused to identify just how many officers were on the scene to serve a warrant on a single individual. Some reports stated that as many as six officers from Smyrna and Cobb were on hand.
- Most importantly is the dispute about Thomas’ intent. Was he trying to get away or did he intentionally try to run down officers? “Our concern is … yes, Thomas did want to evade (the officers). Our concern is, how do we go all the way to a death sentence for evading? Our concern is: was the officer in danger, or was this kid shot to keep him from getting away?
“If he officer was in danger, then I think the law would support deadly force. But at this point, we don’t know either way,” Bozeman said.
As of now, Cobb County Police are investigating the case. The family vehemently opposes that because Cobb County officers were also at the scene of the shooting in a backup capacity.
“[The investigation] should never have started with Cobb County when it was their SWAT team, it was their officers backing up Smyrna police and we’re unclear what their was in the entire episode,” said Mawuli Mel Davis, another of Thomas’ attorneys.