$4.8 Million Settlement Reached in Trooper’s Fatal Shooting of a Black Driver
"Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, 60, was killed in August 2020 after a Georgia state trooper stopped him for a broken taillight.
The state of Georgia will pay a $4.8 million settlement to the family of a 60-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by a state trooper in 2020 during a traffic stop over a broken taillight, officials said.
Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, 60, was killed on Aug. 7, 2020, after the trooper, Jacob Thompson, spotted him driving at night with a broken taillight, according to a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Mr. Thompson, who is white, followed Mr. Lewis and tried to get him to pull over near Sylvania, Ga., which is about 60 miles northwest of Savannah. Eventually, Mr. Thompson used his patrol vehicle to force Mr. Lewis’s car to turn sideways into a ditch.
As he got out of his patrol vehicle, the trooper drew his gun and fired at Mr. Lewis after it appeared that Mr. Lewis was trying to maneuver his car toward Mr. Thompson, the report said, citing the trooper’s account. Mr. Lewis was struck once and pronounced dead at the scene.
In a statement on Thursday, Hall & Lampros, the law firm representing Mr. Lewis’s family, said that “it is believed” that Mr. Lewis had continued driving because he wanted to go to an area “where he knew other people would be present.”
Francys Johnson, a lawyer for Mr. Lewis’s family, said that the settlement, which was reached last month before a lawsuit was filed, was only one step in the family’s effort to hold Mr. Thompson accountable.
“The family has directed us to continue to push for the criminal responsibility, and we shall,” he said.
Mr. Johnson said that Mr. Lewis’s family was still waiting for the district attorney, Daphne J. Totten, to release a police video of the shooting.
“Taxpayers should know why the state settled this case for nearly $5 million,” Mr. Johnson said.
Ms. Totten did not respond to emails or phone calls on Sunday.
Kara Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Georgia attorney general’s office, confirmed the settlement on Sunday but did not comment further. Keith Barber, Mr. Thompson’s lawyer, declined to comment on Sunday.
Days after the shooting, Mr. Thompson was fired and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. In June last year, a grand jury declined to indict him.
Lindsay Milton, Mr. Lewis’s mother, implied at the time that race was a factor in the grand jury’s decision, saying, “They’re going to let this young man go free ’cause my child was a Black man.”
To call attention to Mr. Lewis’s case, his son, Brook Bacon, led a 63-mile march for justice in September from Sylvania, Ga., near where Mr. Lewis was pulled over, to the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia in Savannah, Mr. Johnson said.
Mr. Bacon said in a statement, “We will not rest until his killer is behind bars.”
The U.S. attorney’s office said in September that it was “in consultation” with the F.B.I. about the circumstances of Mr. Lewis’s death.
Jenna Sellitto, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s field office in Atlanta, declined to comment on Sunday. Barry L. Paschal, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Georgia, also declined to comment but said that the investigation was continuing.
A New York Times investigation last year found that, in a five-year period, police officers in the United States killed at least 400 drivers during traffic stops for minor offenses, including broken taillights.
Only five officers were convicted in those killings, and local governments paid at least $125 million in 40 settlements."