Almost half of the people killed by police in Georgia since 2010 were unarmed or shot in the back according to a new investigation. More than one-third of those killed were shot at their own home after officers responded to a call for help or a domestic dispute.
A recent investigation from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed 184 fatal police shootings in the state of Georgia since 2010. According to the data, at least 70 people were shot in the back by police officers. Roughly one in six people were unarmed, while one in four exhibited signs of mental illness before their deaths. At least 11 people were both unarmed and shot in the back when police officers killed them.
The report also found at least 20 cops involved in fatal shootings had serious prior issues filed against them. Four had been previously fired or resigned, two were disciplined for lying, and two others had failed to complete state-mandated annual use-of-force training to keep their arresting powers when they killed suspects.
While driving to work on June 30, 2011, Maurice Hamilton allegedly ran a stop sign without a driver’s license. When Officer Thomas Atzert attempted to pull him over, Hamilton exited his vehicle and fled on foot. According to Officer Atzert, Hamilton grabbed his pepper spray and began hitting him with his own baton before the officer was forced to shoot him.
But according to Carold Williams, a 72-year-old attorney and 24-year Army and Air Force veteran, Atzert appeared to subdue Hamilton before the suspect broke free and began to run. Instead of stealing Atzert’s pepper spray and disarming him, Hamilton had been running away when the cop shot him in the back and killed him. While watching the news later that night, Williams realized the police were lying when they said the officer shot Hamilton in self-defense during a fight.
“I knew that wasn’t the truth,” Williams later testified.
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Prosecutors eventually charged Atzert with felony murder, aggravated assault, and giving false statements to investigators four years after the fatal shooting. Forensic examination of Hamilton’s teeth suggested he fell on his face without attempting to break his fall, while Williams testified that Atzert planted a weapon in the unarmed suspect’s dead hand. Although Atzert was accused of planting his baton in Hamilton’s hand and his version of events did not match the eyewitness’ account, the officer was acquitted.
On May 14, 2010, East Dublin officer Jeffery Deal’s dashcam video recorded him shooting Melvin Williams to death. The only problem with the incident was Officer Deal did not have any police powers when he tried to arrest Williams. Although he was driving a patrol car and wearing his uniform and badge, Deal had failed his annual use of deadly force training.
Under Georgia law, police officers are required to pass their annual deadly force training in order to maintain their arrest powers. Instead of charging Deal, the judge claimed he had the authority to make a citizen’s arrest even though Deal was legally mandated to remain at desk duty.
After leaving the department in August, Deal joined the Georgia State Patrol. Amid allegations of dishonesty and harassing other cadets, Deal resigned under investigation on September 21. The following day, he went to work for the sheriff’s department in Telfair County as an investigator with all of his police powers reinstated.
The investigation also found whenever a police shooting appeared questionable, the system consistently ruled in favor of the cops.
Unlike any other state, Georgia allows police officers the right to sit in on the entire grand jury and give a statement at the end that cannot be questioned by prosecutors or grand jurors.
“Most people are not aware at all that Georgia has this provision under the law, and they are certainly shocked to find out we are the only state in the union with this law,” stated Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.
Without permitting the defense to do their jobs, Georgia has basically taken a page from the reticent FISA courts operating within the shadows of judicial apoptosis. By adhering to routine violations of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, Georgia appears less like a Confederate rebel and more like a colony of bootlicking statist sympathizers.