Three civil rights attorneys, including Statesboro’s Francys Johnson, called for a federal investigation into a recent officer-involved shooting near Sylvania.
Johnson, as well as Atlanta attorney Mawuli Davis and a third attorney, Harold Smith, conducted a ZOOM meeting online Wednesday to discuss the shooting, where a yet-unnamed Post 21 Georgia State Patrol trooper fatally shot Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, 60, during an Aug. 7 traffic stop on the dirt portion of Stoney Pond Road in Screven County, about seven miles south of Sylvania.
After the incident, the Georgia State Patrol called for a query by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is protocol in officer-involved use of force cases. GBI agents had not released the trooper’s name Thursday evening, but GSP Capt. Robert Balkcom, commander of Troop F, said the trooper had been suspended with pay during the investigation. Post 21 in Sylvania is under Troop F.
During the Zoom meeting, Johnson and others, including Georgia NAACP President James “Major” Woodall, called for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to be involved, as well as demanding the trooper be “fired and charged.” The investigation is still active and no determination has been made that charges will be involved.
Lewis was black. The race of the trooper is yet unknown, but Woodall said “This is not a black and white issue. It is an issue of humanity.”
While GBI and GSP officials have not yet released any details regarding the incident, Johnson alleged the traffic stop was over a minor infraction like “a burned out taillight.”
In a statement released late Thursday, Johnson said Lewis was shot in the face. It is yet unclear, but Johnson said he believed Lewis was shot while inside his car. It is not yet known whether he was armed.
“This is not a South Georgia problem. It is not a Georgia problem. It is an American problem,” he said, adding that in Georgia in 2019, there were 59 officer-involved shootings. So far in 2020 there have already been 56, he said.
Lewis’s siblings and wife Betty were part of Wednesday’s online meeting. With raw emotion, Ms. Lewis said: “I am hurting. I am in pain over the taking of the life of an innocent man. It doesn’t make sense. I miss my husband. I love my husband. The crying, the loneliness just won’t stop. It’s so wrong.”
In his statement released Thursday, Johnson said a public candlelight vigil is planned for Lewis, to be held tonight (Friday) at 7:30 p.m. at the Sylvania City Hall, 104 South Main Street, in Sylvania.
A graveside funeral service for Lewis will be held Saturday, at 9:30 a.m. at the Charlestown United Methodist Church, 1759 Effingham Highway, in Sylvania.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.