A former Georgia State Patrol trooper charged with murder has a mixed history of accolades and citizen complaints, and the man he killed during a Screven County traffic stop reportedly tested positive for cocaine and methamphetamine.
On Aug. 7, former Georgia State Patrol Post 21 Trooper First Class 2 Jacob Gordon Thompson tried to stop a car driven by Julian Lewis because of a broken taillight. Lewis did not stop, but continued to drive, using both blinkers, lighting a cigarette and making arm motions as he drove, Thompson stated in reports. Thompson performed a PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver, using his patrol car to physically stop Lewis’ car, causing him to crash into a ditch. Thompson reportedly exited his car and fired one shot, killing Lewis as he sat in his disabled car.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent testified Thompson fired the shot about one second after exiting his vehicle. Thompson stated in reports he feared for his safety and believed Lewis was racing his engine and trying to steer the car towards him, but GBI Special Agent Dustin Peak testified Lewis’ car had been rendered inoperable, with the battery and air flow sensor becoming dislodged upon impact.
Charged with felony murder and aggravated assault, Thompson was denied bond during a Sept.1 hearing by Screven County Superior Court Judge F. Gates Peed.
Accolades and complaints
Civil rights attorney Francys Johnson, who serves as co-counsel for Lewis’ family in a wrongful death suit, provided the Statesboro Herald with documentation from Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) and GSP Post 21 in Sylvania that reflected records of both praise and criticism against Thompson during his service as a state trooper since 2011.
According to the POST documentation, Thompson logged more than 2,200 hours of training, including courses in pursuit liability and due regard; decision making and mobile field force refresher. He was name “Top DUI Trooper” one year with 79 DUI arrests, and commendations are on file praising Thompson for assistance in criminal apprehension, drug seizures, and such activities as participation in a GBI task force.
However, there were at least three citizen complaints against Thompson; two of which alleged racial profiling. Thompson is white and Lewis was Black.
In Thompson’s separation notice issued in August after his arrest, reasons for his termination were listed as “negligence or inefficiency in performing assigned duties, or commission of a felony.”
A “troop level investigation” into a 2017 complaint of illegal stop and civil rights violation ruled the claims as “unfounded.”
In the incident, according to the complaint, Thompson pulled over a Black driver for no seatbelt and window tint violation; questioned him about drinking and handcuffed him when he refused to answer. He later gave the driver a warning for window tint, which turned out to be legal tinting, and for no seatbelt.
Thompson later explained in reports that he handcuffed the man because he was considering charging him with DUI, but doubted his certainty about whether the driver was intoxicated.
Investigating troopers reviewing the incident stated in reports that although the traffic stop was indeed valid, they “did identify several issues” with Thompson’s behavior during the stop that would be addressed.
Video review and the driver’s statements indicated Thompson was visibly agitated during the stop, and he later admitted in reports it was the first time a driver refused to answer questions. The driver alleged Thompson stopped him because he is Black. Investigative superiors said they felt Thompson’s being “overly aggressive” was due to his inexperience and stated he as an “asset to Troop F.”
A citizen filed a complaint in 2015 that internal investigators ruled as “sustained.” Thompson responded to a crash and was reportedly unprofessional and “displayed a lack of compassion towards the complainant.”
According to the report, Thompson had worked five crashes day and had two other accidents holding while he was trying to handle the one in the complaint. He is alleged to have harassed a couple over identification they had misplaced during the wreck when a purse was thrown from the car. The driver said Thompson interrupted EMT treatment to demand the ID and was heard (also caught on video) saying to the man “you’re the dumbass that wrecked.”
Thompson’s superiors stated in reports that he “could have definitely shown more compassion and empathy” and was reprimanded for the incident.
In 2016 a driver reported to Thompson’s superiors that he stopped him because he was Black,” claiming Thompson drove alongside him before pulling him over. However, that driver admitted Thompson was not rude or inappropriate, and dash cam video supported the incident as unfounded.
Thompson was also reprimanded for making a traffic stop in 2016 while on the way to training, not wearing a full uniform or sidearm. Another citizen reported him speeding on Rocky Ford Road in 2016 and the Screven Count State Court filed a complaint of “sloppy reporting” in 2017.
Thompson’s attorney Robert Persse said the citizen complaints against Thompson do not pertain to the Aug. 7 incident.
During the Sept.1 bond hearing, Persse submitted 50 letters of recommendation for Thompson. Also, he said Thompson was nominated for Post 21 Trooper of the Year in 2019.
Toxicology reports for victim
On Tuesday, a man who did not identify himself hand delivered two unmarked envelopes to Statesboro Herald reporters. He declined to disclose from where or whom they came.
The envelopes contained toxicology reports for Julian Lewis on the night he was killed from the GBI Department of Forensic Science. While Statesboro Region 5 special agents did not return calls to confirm the reports, Persse said he had received official toxicology reports and verified the report states Lewis tested positive for cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as fluoxetine, an antidepressant.
Test results came back “uncertain” for alcohol. GSP reports state there was one can of beer in Lewis’ car at the time of his death.
The intoxicants could be an indicator as to why Lewis did not stop when Thompson switched on his blue lights, Persse said. When questioned by the Statesboro Herald Wednesday, he said, “We had knowledge of the toxicology with Lewis testing positive” and that could be a “significant factor in what happened that night.”
Johnson, however, questioned the validity of the toxicology report after having been provided a copy Wednesday by the Statesboro Herald.
“I am not certain as to the authenticity of this report, but I am absolutely clear that it changes nothing about the case or the appropriateness of the charges of felony murder and aggravated assault,” he said. "I would urge you to ask the officer who leaked this report, if it is even real, to leak the video and audio of the murder of Julian Lewis.”
The Statesboro Herald does not know the identity of the man who delivered the reports or who requested they be delivered to the Herald office.
"It is these antics by law enforcement during the prosecution of these cases that erode the confidence of the community,” Johnson said. “I hope the DA's office will launch an investigation in this breach of security.”
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.