Georgia state trooper charged with murder after fatally shooting man in traffic stop chase
© Georgia Department of Public Safety via WTOC

A Georgia state trooper was arrested and charged with murder on Friday after he fatally shot a 60-year-old man who allegedly tried to flee during a rural traffic stop.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announced that Jacob Gordon Thompson, 27, was booked on felony murder and aggravated assault charges stemming from the Aug. 7 death of Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis.

An attorney for Lewis’s family told The Associated Press that Thompson initiated the traffic stop in Screven County over a burned-out tail light, shooting Lewis immediately after the trooper had forced his car into a ditch.


“Mr. Lewis never got out of the vehicle and the investigation will show that, mere seconds after the crash, he was shot to death, shot in the face and killed,” attorney Francys Johnson said.

Johnson told the outlet that the GBI disclosed that information to the family, but the agency did not include those details in its statement on the trooper’s arrest.

The Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP, decried the incident as a case of racial profiling and the latest example of a white law enforcement officer killing a Black man.

“No one should have to bury a loved one simply because of a busted tail light,” Woodall said, saying that the trooper’s arrest was not cause for celebration. “We are not necessarily happy right now. Yes, the man was arrested, but we’re done dying."

The initial press release following the incident states that Lewis’s car did not stop and that Thompson initiated a brief chase down several county roads.

The agency said the trooper initiated a precision intervention technique (PIT) that made the car come to a stop in a ditch.

The GBI did not provide any other details about the altercation, stating only that the trooper fired one round that struck Lewis, who was pronounced dead at the scene. The trooper was not injured.

In an incident report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Thompson wrote that he shot Lewis in the forehead because he thought Lewis was going to run him over.

“At some point, I heard the engine on the violator’s vehicle revving at a high rate of speed,” he wrote in the report. “I saw him wrenching the steering wheel in an aggressive back and forth manner towards me and my patrol vehicle. It appeared to me that the violator was trying to use his vehicle to injure me. Being in fear for my life and safety, I discharged my weapon once.”

Johnson, the Lewis family's attorney, argued that PIT maneuvers are typically used when an officer needs to push a vehicle off the road because there is a risk to public safety and that it was unnecessary to run Lewis’s car into the ditch on a rural dirt road.

The attorney said the U.S. Department of Justice has approved his request for a federal civil rights investigation.

“We got lots of messages from people in the community that the habit of ex-trooper Thompson was to racially profile and harass Black and brown people on the highway,” Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This was not shocking to them that this happened.”


The Georgia Department of Public Safety on Friday terminated Thompson due to his "negligence or inefficiency in performing assigned duties; or commission of a felony," according to a statement obtained by WTOC. He had been employed at the agency since July 2013. 

Thompson’s attorney said the ex-trooper “has excellent character” and declined to comment further on the case.

“I think he’s a fine trooper,” Keith Barber told the AP. “I think at the end of the day he will be exonerated in this case.”

Johnson said Lewis’s wife, Betty Lewis, learned of the trooper’s arrest while she was preparing arrangements at the funeral home.

"She fell to her knees," Johnson said. "She said,'This is a step towards justice.'"

Betty Lewis said her husband did not own a gun and was a carpenter who recently helped a local ministry finish a construction project.

"He was not a perfect member of the Lewis family, but as his wife said, 'He was too good to die the way he did,'" Johnson said.

Thompson’s arrest comes after weeks of protests and public outcry against police brutality and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

In June, a former Atlanta police officer was charged with murder for fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, in a Wendy's parking lot.