In 2019, Coweta County Deputy John Collins fired one round, a head shot, hitting a homeless man, Nicholas Bolton. Bolton had been asleep in his car in the parking lot of a local business when he was apparently startled awake by police officers banging on his SUV's windows.
Now because a grand jury refused to indict the officer, the taxpayers of Coweta County are going to be held liable for the actions of the officers involved. Bolton was shot in the head on June 30, 2019, and now he is blind.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Bolton’s suit claims that there was “no factual or legal justification at any time for the degree of force used by defendant Collins when he shot plaintiff Bolton in the head, without warning...”
The suit also claims that Bolton “posed no objectively reasonable threat” to Collins or the other deputies.
At no point during the police contact with Bolton was he in compliance with officer commands. He refused to identify himself, he refused to open the doors to his vehicle, and he eventually decided to attempt to make a getaway. However, it is important to point out that prior to police contacting him, Bolton hadn't committed a crime.
Nevertheless, he ran, but he didn't get far. He didn't even go a mile before three police cruisers had him pinned in following a pit maneuver made by the shooting officer, Collins.
The pit maneuver was successful. Collins pushed the right rear portion of Bolton's bumper, forcing the SUV to spin around and face Collins. Two other police cruisers approached and pinned Bolton's car on both sides. It was after the car was pinned in with three police cars that Collins decided to shoot at Bolton. He fired one round, hitting the homeless man in the head, blinding him in his right eye.
Collins claims he was afraid Bolton was going to run over one of his fellow boys in blue. He told investigators:
I thought John was about to get run over and I put one round on him.
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Bolton's family lawyer claims the officer intended to try and kill her client by using deadly force when Bolton's car was clearly pinned in. Attorney Tanya Miller said:
Rather than take him into custody, shooting to kill was apparently easier...This unarmed man was virtually homeless, living and sleeping in his car at 2:30 a.m. and committed no crime, and the police video speaks for itself.
While cop apologists will likely say something to the effect of "all he had to do was comply with officer commands", the truth remains quite apparent. A citizen can fall asleep in their car, be awakened by police, attempt to flee police, and be shot and nearly killed by the same people sworn to protect and serve them. This is why many police departments have abandoned police chases as they're often deadly for everyone involved.
Antonio Garcia-Goff was fast asleep in his white 1998 Toyota Camry one hot summer morning in July 2017, when Phoenix police officer George Davis knocked on his window.
Goff's family had even asked for the police to help them find their beloved son who was reportedly struggling with substance abuse. When police arrived, almost the exact same scenario played out which nearly killed Bolton. Officer Davis shot at Goff as he attempted to drive away from the scene. Goff abandoned his vehicle but was later arrested, tried for assault on a police officer, and sent to prison.
Both Goff's family and Bolton's family claim police unnecessarily escalated their use of force. There are other ways to handle a fleeing suspect than shooting to kill them. We interviewed Goff's family and learned he was sentenced to 3.5 years for fleeing the police officers who tried to kill him.
Below is the original news report containing the body camera footage.