The Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Monday afternoon that it is “in consultation with the FBI regarding the circumstances of the 2020 shooting death of Julian Lewis” by a former Georgia state trooper in Screven County.
The GBI arrested then-Trooper Jacob Thompson on Aug. 14, 2020, on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault in connection with the Aug. 7 killing of Lewis, 60, from a single gunshot to the face on a rural dirt road near Sylvania. According to reports, Thompson tried to pull Lewis over for a traffic violation — a burned out taillight.
A Screven County grand jury on June 28, 2021, returned a “no bill,” declining to indict Thompson, who is white, on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault for shooting Lewis, who was Black, to death. Daphne Totten, district attorney for the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit, which presented the case to the grand jury, has not decided if her office will seek to present the case again to a different grand jury.
Lewis' son, Brook Bacon, and family attorneys arrived in Savannah on Monday after concluding a 63-mile march that began last week at the shooting scene. Francys Johnson, who is one of the attorneys representing the Lewis family, said they met with acting U.S. Attorney David Estes in his office along with the division leads for the criminal and civil rights areas of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The Lewis family had previously asked for a federal investigation into Julian Lewis’ murder, and Johnson said that following Monday’s meeting, the family is hopeful they will receive “the justice Mr. Lewis deserves.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office would not offer any other comment or details about its investigation. “In accordance with U.S. Department of Justice policy, no further information regarding the matter will be publicly disclosed unless or until a determination is made to pursue federal prosecution,” was the concluding sentence of the office’s two-sentence news release.
“We heard a response from the federal government through this United States Attorney’s Office and we are hopeful that Daphne Totten will use her discretion to release the video,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing in the law that prohibits her from doing that. The Ahmaud Arbury video was released in Brunswick even though there is a pending investigation, even though there is a pending trial. If the world saw this video, they would have no question that what happened was unjustified and was murder.”
Thompson has maintained that following his PIT maneuver to stop Lewis’ car, he saw Lewis acting as if he were trying to wrench the car out of the ditch. In a statement soon after the incident, Thompson said he heard Lewis’ car’s engine revving and thought he was trying to drive toward him and “feared for my life.”
But Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Dustin Peak later testified in court that Lewis’ car battery had become disconnected when his vehicle hit the ditch, leaving the car inoperable. Peak further said that Thompson’s statement about the shooting was not consistent with what the patrol car’s dash camera video showed.
The Lewis family and their attorneys were shown the video footage from the dash-cam by Totten’s office in July.
Johnson said: “The district attorney could change the course of this case by simply saying to the public, ‘This is what you haven’t seen. And this is why I have a moral obligation to prosecute this case.’”
Thompson’s defense attorney, Keith Barber, said the former trooper was “only doing his job” to protect the public and “acted in self-defense” when he shot Lewis.
Johnson said the family was tired following the 63-mile walk and determined to continue supporting the investigation.
“They understand the pursuit for justice is a marathon and not a sprint,” Johnson said. “They put it this way: ‘Their feet were tired but their souls were renewed.’ To see people come out in the rain and walk with them. There was not one mile on that 63-mile journey where Brook had to walk alone. And that was gratifying.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.