$4.8M settlement reached in trooper’s killing of Julian Lewis
ATLANTA (WRDW/WAGT) - A record $4.8 million settlement with the state of Georgia has been secured for the widow of Julian E. Lewis, according to a law firm that worked on the case.
Lewis was shot and killed in 2020 by Jacob Gordon Thompson, a Georgia State Patrol trooper who pulled him over on a rural highway for an allegedly broken taillight.
The Lewis tort settlement is the largest in Georgia state records dating back to 1990, according to the Hall & Lampros law firm. The settlement exceeds the statutory maximum provided under the Georgia Tort Claims Act, the firm said.
“While the record-making settlement does not bring back her husband for widow Betty Lewis and other family and loved ones, it sends a powerful message to the State and those in law enforcement and other positions of power that unnecessary use of force against innocent citizens is unlawful, morally corrupt and carries legal consequences,” Hall & Lampros said in a news release.
Brook Bacon, son of Lewis said: “This settlement is further proof that Georgia recognizes the wrongs committed against my father, Julian Lewis. My father deserved to survive his encounter with Ex-Georgia State Patrol Jacob Gordon Thompson on Aug. 7, 2020. This is another step toward accountability but we will not rest until his killer is behind bars.”
Francys Johnson, a Statesboro-based partner with Davis Bozeman Johnson Law and lawyer for Bacon said: “The State’s case still sits with District Attorney Daphne Totten of the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit. The notion that something terribly wrong didn’t happen out on that dusty dirt road by the hand of Ex-Trooper Jacob Gordon Thompson is simply unbelievable. Citizens should see the video evidence in this case and they will have a clear understanding of why the State of Georgia paid 4.8 Million Dollars to resolve the civil case.”
On the night of Aug. 7, 2020, Lewis, who is Black, was driving to the store when Thompson, who is Caucasian, activated his lights, indicating Lewis should pull over.
Lewis was fatally shot on a rural road in Screven County while driving to the store to buy an orange soda for his wife on his way home from work.
Andrew Lampros, co-founder, and partner at Hall & Lampros law firm said: “There’s nothing that we can do now to bring Mr. Lewis back to life, and the settlement doesn’t change that. It doesn’t numb the pain that Ms. Lewis has.”
“Our hearts grieve for Betty Lewis, who lost her Golden Years with her husband because of unwarranted and unnecessary deadly force during what should have been a routine traffic stop,” said Lampros. “The events of that August night should never have happened. Shooting an unarmed man without cause is unconscionable, and violates the freedom that the United States Constitution guarantees all individuals. We were prepared to sue the trooper, the department, and its leadership asserting both Constitutional claims as well as state law tort claims.”
Although this ends the civil case in the killing of Lewis, the family hopes this inspires change from within.
Lampros said: “The body cam would slam the door on any versions, any alternative versions of what actually happened.”
It is believed that Lewis was attempting to drive toward a more familiar area where he knew other people would be present — a practice commonly taught to people who may feel vulnerable in isolated areas without witnesses, according to the law firm.
Lewis activated his turn signals in both directions, which is often a sign of acknowledgment to an officer.
The trooper then crashed into Lewis’ Nissan Sentra with enough force to spin Lewis’s car in the opposite direction, according to the law firm. According to Georgia Bureau of Investigation testimony, less than two seconds passed from the time the trooper opened the door to his vehicle and fired a shot that killed 60-year-old Lewis instantly.
In an incident report, the trooper wrote that he heard the engine on Lewis’ vehicle “revving at a high rate of speed” after the PIT maneuver crash, making him fear for his life and prompting the shooting.
An investigation after the incident proved neither taillight on Lewis’ car was in a condition to justify probable cause for a stop and that the PIT maneuver caused Lewis’ battery cable and air filter to disengage — which disabled the engine in his Nissan Sentra, making it impossible to rev as the trooper stated in the incident report, according to the law firm.
Akil Secret, attorney of council, Hall & Lampros said: “The logical conclusion that I come to is that this is a tragic ending to a ‘driving while black’ scenario.”
The state patrol fired Thompson after the incident, and he was charged with assault and felony murder. However, a grand jury did not agree with the charges and did not indict him.
Lampros said: “It was an awful, egregious incident and simply should have never happened.”
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