The family of Vincent Truitt, a Georgia teen who was shot in the back and killed by police in July 2020, is suing the Atlanta suburb of Cobb County, Georgia, and the officer who fired the fatal shot in a federal lawsuit seeking $150 million dollars.
At an emotional news conference, the Truitt family lamented their loss and lingering questions surrounding the teen’s death.
“Officer Max stole my gift, my gift was love for my son,” Venethia Cook said of her son’s death.
“My shirt says, why did you shoot me, those are the last words of my son,” Andre Truitt said were his son’s final words to the officer who shot him.
The shooting happened on July 13, 2020, when Vincent Truitt, who was 17 years old at the time, was picked up in a 2014 Nissan Altima. The lawsuit says the driver, Kewaun Robinson and another passenger were also in the car with Truitt.
The Truitt family’s legal claims says the three in the car were unaware the Nissan Altima was stolen. Bodycam video shows Cobb County police attempting to detain the reported stolen car at a Quik Trip gas station, and as Cobb officers arrived Robinson drove aggressively away from the gas station.
A half-mile chase ensued. Minutes later, the car ended up in a warehouse parking lot where it was blocked in by police, Robinson then fled on foot from the driver’s seat and was later caught by police. Truitt also jumped out of the car with a gun in hand.
“A suspect fleeing with his back turned, running away from the officer, with what’s alleged as a gun, not pointed at an officer, not threatening an officer, there are no other officers in front of him, it was the other suspect that fled, and you fire twice in his back?” asked Gerald Griggs, attorney for the Truitt family.
The lawsuit says Officer Max Karneol used unreasonable deadly force, and Griggs says Truitt running away posed no immediate threat.
Last February, Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady pinpointed a Cobb County police policy addressing a suspect running away and if that person is considered a threat.
“Just following the law of 17.4.20, it says if an officer is chasing a felon who has a weapon, and can pose a danger to others, he has the ability to fire and use deadly force,” Flynn Broady said in a news conference on the shooting.
Griggs disagrees with Broady and claims the policy is “unconstitutional,” and hopes the policy is changed as a result of the lawsuit.
Broady empaneled a grand jury which declared Officer Karneol’s shooting justified, but Griggs questions Broady’s handling of the case, and that is why the family wants federal authorities to investigate the shooting.
Griggs also says Broady should have assembled a criminal grand jury instead of a civil grand jury because criminal grand juries follow a different set of procedures, including bringing an indictment to the officer in officer-involved shooting in Georgia, which Griggs says never happened.
“As I look at the law and I compare the law to the facts as we know them, it’s not possible for him to have presented them to a criminal grand jury because we know the officer was not there, we asked him for a copy of the indictment which he did not present, there were no charges presented,” Griggs said.
Griggs says he and other attorneys representing the family have been in talks with the Justice Department hoping the federal agency will take up the case.
A Cobb County spokesperson told Atlanta Black Star, they are “aware of the lawsuit and will vigorously defend our interests in federal court.”
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