Thomasville, GA — Thomasville police officers have been cleared by a grand jury in the shooting death of 37-year-old Herbert Gilbert Jr. Following the grand jury's ruling that the officer-involved-shooting was justified, Thomasville Police released body camera footage of the deadly encounter. The graphic footage shows Gilbert's attempt to flee in his SUV, only to be gunned down by officers who presumably feared for their lives. Gilbert did not have a gun, was not attempting to run-over any officers, and was actually backing up his vehicle when officer Josh Smith shot him 8 times through the windshield. His original crime? He had an illegal plant.
When the body camera footage begins, officers can be heard saying they have a search warrant and announced their presence inside a house. Gilbert wasted no time attempting to flee, but the chase was made exponentially more dangerous when a Thomasville officer attempted to stop Gilbert with the maneuver known as the "pit maneuver."
That action—which was dangerously conducted in a residential neighborhood—pushed Gilbert's car into a neighboring yard. He was still in command of his vehicle and attempted to flee yet again. After the officer, who was on foot, caught up with the vehicles, Gilbert can be clearly seen backing up his vehicle. Who knows if he was attempting to put his vehicle in park and simply surrender, but none of that matters now.
Officer Smith opened fire as he was backing up his car. It's unclear if his vehicle was thrown into drive as he lurched forward as a result of being struck by the bullets or if he deliberately put the vehicle in drive. Unfortunately, Gilbert died from the injuries he sustained.
After searching the dead man's belongings, police say they found an undisclosed amount of cannabis and $883 dollars, along with a set of scales. Ultimately, Gilbert was shot and killed by police for the crime of possessing a plant, and attempting to flee, neither so-called offenses should carry the death penalty in the minds of many who were outraged by the brazen hit on one of their community members. For weeks, Black Lives Matter protests followed Gilbert's assassination.
Ironically, cannabis oil has been legalized in the State of Georgia, but the disconnect still remains. Cannabis oil is a derivative of marijuana, leading many advocates to believe Gilbert's death was unnecessary and unjustified. Equally troubling is the practice by police of executing people who are suspected of possessing the harmless plant when and if they attempt to resist arrest or get away.
In 2016, South Carolina resident Zach Hammond, 19, was killed in similar guerrilla fashion after Seneca police attempted to arrest his passenger, Tori Morton, for a minuscule amount of marijuana. Similarly, police claimed Hammond was driving his vehicle in the direction of the officer thereby posing a deadly threat. But as TFTP's Matt Agorist wrote:
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Hammond’s autopsy revealed that the teen was shot in the back of his left shoulder and his side. According to witness statements, Hammond’s vehicle was not moving when Tiller shot him twice. In a letter from Hammond’s attorney to the FBI, a witness has recently come forward describing officers planting evidence under Hammond’s body and high-fiving his dead hand after the shooting.
Seneca Police Officer Mark Tiller is the peace officer who killed Hammond. Tiller wasn't fired or disciplined following the shooting but his employment was terminated a year following the shooting for an undisclosed reason. Tiller's termination may have been related to a lawsuit filed by Morton against the Seneca PD, the City of Seneca, and Seneca Police Chief John Covington.
Morton says police pressured her into saying Hammond was armed, and threatened her with marijuana prosecution charges if she didn't give in and lie. According to the Independent Mail:
Morton’s lawsuit alleges that a marijuana charge has been hanging over her head for nearly two years as a form of leverage by Seneca officials who don’t want her cooperating with a federal investigation. The lawsuit also says she was taken to several undisclosed locations for unrecorded interviews in the wake of the shooting and was pressured into saying Hammond was armed. He was unarmed.
Such is the sad state of affairs in the failed War on Drugs. Not only are people being gunned down by trigger-happy police officers for victimless crimes of possessing a plant, but they're apparently more than willing to lie about what actually happened and what they found on their dead suspects following such controversial assassinations. Below is the body camera footage from the deadly shooting death of Herbert Gilbert Jr.
WARNING: It is graphic.