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Fmr Trooper Appears in Court for Bond Hearing on Felony Murder, Agg Assault Charges

In a fairly full courtroom catering to social distancing guidelines, Superior Court Judge Gates Peed opted not to immediately issue a decision on bond for now-former Trooper Jacob Thompson.

In a fairly full courtroom catering to social distancing guidelines, Superior Court Judge Gates Peed opted not to immediately issue a decision on bond for now-former Trooper Jacob Thompson.

Thompson was arrested and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault 10 days ago in the shooting death of Julian Lewis. Thompson reportedly attempted to make a traffic stop of Lewis in Screven County on August 7 and when a Lewis did not stop, a short pursuit ended in a PIT maneuver. In his reported, Thompson later said he feared for his life when he believed Lewis was going to use his vehicle to harm him. The GBI arrested Thompson on August 14 and he was terminated by GSP on the same day.

Security at the Screven County Courthouse was in heightened status Monday after direct threats were made against the courthouse and, reportedly, the Lewis family, last week. Deputies from both the Bulloch and Effingham County Sheriff’s Offices along with municipal police department officers assisted with the hearing, with agents from the GBI and victim advocates from the District Attorney’s office present as well.

Local attorney Duff Ayers and Savannah attorney Robert Persse represented Thompson, who wore a suit, but was handcuffed for the duration of the proceeding. Persse argued for bond of Thompson at an amount deemed sufficient by the court, with any number of conditions and restrictions. Citing the statute for bond defendants suitable for bond, Persse said that Thompson poses no threat of flight or fleeing, that he is no threat to any person, poses no threat of intimidating witnesses or obstructing justices and that he is not at risk to commit additional felonies pending trial. He relied on Thompson’s absent criminal record prior to this incident and ‘impeccable history’ on the job. Persse maintained that the situation leading to the “unfortunate death” was escalated by Lewis and that the judicial emergency could only exacerbate the time between arrest and grand jury proceedings. Persse also expressed the defense’s opposition to an arrest by the GBI before the investigation was complete. 

Persse also pleaded with Judge Peed to consider Thompson’s position as the sole breadwinner for the family, of which a wife and young son rely on for income. While more than a dozen family members and friends sat behind Thompson at Monday’s hearing, attorneys said at least five people in Screven County have offered to employ Thompson if he is granted bond, furthering the argument that Thompson would remain in the community until trial. Persse tendered 50 character statements in favor of Thompson as well. “He is the perfect candidate for bond,” he told the Court.

Assistant District Attorney Barclays Black represented the state and argued against bond for Thompson, saying he posed a possible flight risk. With the testimony of GBI Agent Dustin Peake, Black recounted the investigation following the August 7 shooting. He said there were no witnesses to interview, but that crime scene analysis, dash cam footage, and evidence collection conflicting with Thompson’s written statement to the GBI resulted in the arrest.

Agent Peake testified that agents accessed dash camera footage from Thompson’s car around 4:00 am Saturday morning and determined that the time from the moment Lewis took his foot off the brake to the time Thompson fired one shot was one second. He also said that the 1996 Nissan Sentra driven by Lewis offered no indication that it was operational after the PIT maneuver and that the wheels were turned to the right, away from Thompson.

Thompson did not provide a statement to the GBI on the night of the shooting, but submitted a written statement on Monday, August 10. Peake testified that the statement provided was identical to the incident report Thompson prepared for George State Patrol, but differed from the dash camera footage. He also said Thompson later consented to an interview with his attorney present on August 12. Thompson indicated at those times that he believed the wheels were spinning and that Lewis posed an immediate threat.

Peake ultimately testified that he did not conclude that the shooting was justifiable or was the proper use of a weapon. He said vehicle analysis later showed that the battery in the vehicle driven by Lewis was disabled and an air filter necessary to be in tact for operation was out of place.

Thompson’s attorneys refuted statements by the GBI and said the timeline was contingent upon the dash camera operating as it should. Persse asked Agent Peake what was recovered from Lewis’ vehicle and Peake said only a cell phone and a beer in the center console. He said the vehicle was still in drive and that the keys were in the ignition. Persse also questioned Peake on whether Thompson was capable of total memory recall after the traumatic event of shooting Lewis, alluding to the idea that Thompson was not deliberately misstating the facts of the event as he remembered them, and Peake stated that it was possible.

Family members of Lewis were joined by their attorney, Francys Johnson, some with shirts reading “Justice for Julian Lewis” on the front. Betty Lewis, the wife of Julian, testified in opposition of bond for Thompson. She said she did not believe the characterization of her husband and that Thompson’s statements were a lie, calling them ‘the ugliest kind of lie that endangers black people.’

Lewis said Thompson will intimidate witnesses and she has already felt intimidation by power players in the community who have raised money for Thompson. “It’s the stereotype that black men are violent,” Lewis said. “And if it was Julian asking for bond, the answer would be no. Send a signal to the community that justice is real in southeast Georgia.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Peed said he would take all of the arguments into consideration and would issue an order on the matter soon. He did not provide a timeline for the order.

Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    WENDELL Reed

    August 24, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    Thank you Sister Lewis for statement.

  2. Avatar

    Keturah Wylemski

    August 24, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    The war on law enforcement is real and this is but one example. This is a mockery of justice, but then again, it is an election year in Screven county.

  3. Avatar

    John Jones

    August 25, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    How is this war on law enforcement in Screven County? It seems the total opposite, the officer fired upon a citizen that was of no threat.

  4. Avatar

    Michael

    August 26, 2020 at 8:35 am

    Alcohol in the console! Evading law resisting arrest! Wow, people continue to break the law and others at risk! Then blame everyone except the person who broke the law! Comply, it’s not that hard!

  5. Avatar

    Michael

    August 26, 2020 at 8:38 am

    Alcohol in the console! Evading law and resisting arrest! Wow, people continue to break the law and put others at risk! Then……. blame everyone except the person who broke the law! Comply, it’s not that hard!

  6. Avatar

    Aota

    August 27, 2020 at 1:51 am

    Kill someone for a broken tail light? What the hell training is being given to these officers who are supposed to protect and serve? Seems more like an officer unable to keep his wits about him; why not just shoot out the tires if he really thought the car could drive? As stated: “Agent Peake testified that agents accessed dash camera footage from Thompson’s car around 4:00 am Saturday morning and determined that the time from the moment Lewis took his foot off the brake to the time Thompson fired one shot was one second. He also said that the 1996 Nissan Sentra driven by Lewis offered no indication that it was operational after the PIT maneuver and that the wheels were turned to the right, away from Thompson.” Seems like a power play by a young arrogant white dude rather than a caring officer dedicated to protect and serve. Do you really want to die for having a broken tail light regardless of a single beer being in your center console? Or let a white officer stop you the Black man on a rural road in the middle of the night? What a great choice. Reflect on the tragedy here and realize BLACK MEN DO HAVE IT WAY HARDER IN THESE SOUTHERN WHITE BASTIONS OF POWER.

  7. Avatar

    Chris goldstien

    September 7, 2020 at 3:29 am

    Black men have it harder????? Fuck you you stupid white guilt feeling pandering ass punk…..like white officers wake up i the morning and are thinking ‘i want to kill a black man today and go to jail for life and have my family ridiculed for life…’ all the stupid fuck had to do was comply but he fled and then hit the gas while hes in the ditch….and yes 1 second is all ot takes. If they are so ‘scared of police’ and ‘fear for their lives’ then how come every video i see they just completely ignore 1 or more white police officers giving them orders to do something? Dont look like they fear en too much to me….. plain fucking stupidity… if a group of white police officers are yelling at me or pulling me over or whatever the case guess what….im gon comply!! And im WHITE!!!!!

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