Years After White Smyrna Cop Shot and Killed Black Goodyear Tire Worker, Family’s Wrongful Death Suit Dismissed

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A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death suit filed against a Smyrna, Georgia, cop in the 2015 shooting death of Nicholas Thomas and now, his family plans to appeal.

In March of that year, Thomas was shot and killed by Lt. Kenneth Owens at the suburban Atlanta Goodyear Tire where he worked when officers arrived to execute a felony probation violation warrant. At the time, conflicting reports emerged concerning the circumstances that led to the fatal shooting. Initially, Owens and his fellow officers said they feared for their lives because Thomas was driving a customer’s Maserati “directly at them.” However, Smyrna police Sgt. Ed Cason’s statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution told a different story.

nicholas thomas
Nicholas Thomas left behind a 4-month-old daughter when police shot and killed him. (Photo: MySpace)

“Due to heavy window tint on the vehicle, officers could not see into the car,” he wrote. “Thus, the officers used less than lethal bean bag rounds in an attempt to break out the passenger side window and look into the car.”

An autopsy conducted by the Cobb County medical examiner’s office concluded Thomas died from a gunshot wound after a bullet entered his upper back on the right side. It hit his lungs and aorta before stopping on the upper left side of his chest.

“Nicholas Thomas died as a result of a gunshot wound of the torso sustained during an altercation with police,” the autopsy report said. “The manner of death is classified as homicide. The designation of the manner of death as homicide does not necessarily indicate improper actions on the part of police.”

It wasn’t clear from the report how far away the cops were from Thomas. However, the report said there was no gunpowder or soot found on Thomas’s back or shirt.

The findings conflict with the claim that Thomas was driving right toward the officers that day, Mawuli Davis, a Thomas family lawyer said at the time.

She added the report “reinforces the position we have taken that he was not a threat to the officers.”

A grand jury determined in 2015 that the police shooting was justified.

On Friday, March 29, 2019, Judge Billy Ray of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia granted Owens’ and the city of Smyrna’s motion to dismiss Friday.

“This court concludes that Owens’ use of deadly force under the circumstances presented on March 24, 2015, was objectively reasonable as a matter of law and that the applicable law was not clearly established such that every reasonable officer in Owens’ position would have understood that his use of deadly force would violate Nicholas Thomas’ constitutional or other federal rights,” Ray wrote in the document.

By Monday, April 1, the family had filed to appeal the decision.

“We’ve already filed the appeal,” the family attorney Craig T. Jones told Daily Report Tuesday in an email. “That’s all we need to say at this point.”

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