SYLVANIA – During a bond hearing Monday, a GBI special agent said a former state trooper’s account of his fatally shooting a Screven County man was not consistent with video from the trooper’s dash camera of the Aug. 7 incident.
Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge F. Gates Peed heard arguments in a courtroom of the Screven County Courthouse regarding bond for Jacob Gordon Thompson, who is charged with felony murder, but had not ruled on the request as of late Monday afternoon.
Thompson is accused of killing Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, 60, during a forced traffic stop Friday, Aug. 7, on Stoney Pond Road in Screven County.
According to reports, Thompson tried to pull Lewis over for a traffic violation. When Lewis failed to stop, Thompson said in his report that he continued the pursuit as Lewis used both turn signals, sped up to 65 miles per hour, motioned to him out the window and then lit a cigarette, all the while fleeing down several dirt roads.
Then, Thompson used the pursuit intervention technique (PIT maneuver), using his patrol car to force Lewis to a stop. Lewis’ car ended in a ditch, and Thompson fired a single shot that killed him.
After a seven-day investigation of the shooting, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Dustin Peak issued warrants for Thompson’s arrest on aggravated assault and felony murder charges. Upon learning the warrants were issued, Thompson turned himself in to the Screven County Sheriff’s Office, said attorney Robert Persse, who represented Thompson, 27, during the bond hearing before Peed Monday afternoon.
Persse asked Peed to consider a bond for Thompson, “even a high bond with conditions,” stating the former trooper, who was terminated upon arrest, was not a flight risk because he has “generations” of roots in Screven County and had a wife and young child, as well as several relatives in the area. Persse argued Thompson did not pose a threat to anyone and had been a law enforcement officer for many years with no negative reports on his record.
He said Thompson is “sole provider” for his family and handed more than 50 letters of commendation in Thompson’s favor. If bond is denied, it would pose a significant hardship on his family, Persse said.
But Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black opposed bond, “considering the gravity and level of impact” Thompson’s actions caused, and argued that he could be a flight risk.
Dash camera video
He called Special Agent Peak to the stand and questioned him about the investigation into the shooting, including findings after Peak reviewed a dash camera video of the night’s events.
In a statement by Thompson in reports, he said he pulled his patrol car next to Lewis’s car (in the ditch) after the PIT maneuver and saw Lewis had both hands on the steering wheel, acting as if he were trying to wrench the car out of the ditch. In his statement Thompson said he heard Lewis’ car’s engine revving, thought he was trying to drive towards him and “feared for my life.”
However, Peak testified Lewis’ car had been rendered inoperable by the crash, with the battery and air filter disconnected. Peak said Lewis’ car wheels were turned away from the trooper.
Peak also testified that there was “maybe one second” between Thompson’s “taking his foot off the (patrol car’s) brake and firing the shot” that reportedly killed Lewis.
“Was the dash cam video consistent with (Thompson’s) statement?” Black asked. “No, it was not,” Peak said.
He also told the court that the angle of the single bullet fired by Thompson, which struck Lewis in the forehead, was “not consistent” with Thompson’s statement in reports.
Peak said there were no weapons in Lewis’ 1996 Nissan Sentra, and there was one beer in the console.
Only one other person besides Peak was called to the stand. Betty Lewis, the victim’s wife, made a passionate argument against Thompson being given a bond.
“We are broken-hearted,” she said. “I do not believe (Thompson’s statement) that he believed Julian threatened his life… that is the ugliest kind of lie.” She said her husband was killed due to “the stereotype that Black men are violent… if it was Julian (seeking bond for a murder charge) the answer would be no.”
Persse again argued that the state had no evidence that Thompson would be a flight risk. After hearing all arguments, Peed announced “I will take this into consideration. Court is adjourned.” He did not indicate when he would make a decision, and a call to his office yielded no further information except that when Peed makes his decision he will file it with the Screven County Clerk of Court’s Office.
Thompson did not testify at the hearing and remains in custody at the Screven County Jail.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.