MARIETTA — Cobb District Attorney Flynn Broady said Thursday he will not prosecute the police officer who shot and killed Fulton County teenager Vincent Truitt last summer after a grand jury found the officer’s use of force justified.
Speaking at a news conference less than two hours after the grand jury made its decision, Broady said he was not bound by the jury’s recommendation. But the newly-elected DA has made it his policy to follow a grand jury’s recommendation in any officer-involved shootings, he added.
Attorneys for the Truitt family said they would move forward with a $50 million lawsuit against the county alleging excessive force and wrongful death.
Truitt was one of three teens in a stolen car during an attempted traffic stop July 13, 2020, according to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation release issued later that week. The car fled and later stopped at a dead end behind a building at 270 Riverside Parkway off Interstate 20, south of the Riverside EpiCenter in Austell.
Truitt and one of the car’s other passengers ran, the GBI said.
Cobb County police officer Max Karneol shot Truitt after the Fulton County teen “brandished” a handgun while fleeing, per the GBI release. He was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in critical condition and died the next day.
At a meeting of the county’s governing board, during a rally at Marietta’s Glover Park and on social media, Truitt’s family has called on county leaders to file charges against Karneol, fire Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox and release video captured by the body cameras of officers who were present when Truitt was shot.
Broady’s predecessor, Joyette Holmes, shared the video with Truitt’s family in November. The family’s attorneys had long maintained the video would prove Truitt never brandished a weapon and that the officer had no reason to fear for his life or shoot the teenager.
But Broady and Holmes resisted calls to release the video, citing an exemption to the state’s open records laws that allows the government to withhold information pertinent to a pending investigation.
Thursday evening, Broady said he considered the case closed and shared three videos of the moments leading to Truitt’s death, including video captured by Karneol’s body camera.
A still from that video showed Truitt holding a handgun, but at no point in the video did he seem to point the gun at the officer.
Members of the grand jury were presented with video from each officer’s body camera and each police car’s dashboard camera, video captured by the warehouse where Truitt was shot, “all the witness’ statements” and testimony from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent that worked on the case, said Jason Saliba, of the DA’s office.
“They were showed a slowed version of the body cam as well as the still you saw and a few other stills that are part of the GBI file,” he added.
Those videos will likely be released to the public early next week, DA spokesperson Kim Isaza said.
Speaking moments after Broady’s press conference, Truitt family attorney Jackie Patterson suggested Broady had lied about the manner in which he presented the case to the grand jury.
A copy of the grand jury’s decision indicated the case had not been presented as a criminal case, Patterson said. Securing an indictment is easier in a criminal case, he added.
“We’ve been hoodwinked. Duped, tricked,” he said.
Broady said the case was, in fact, presented as a criminal case.
“There were no charges presented to the grand jury,” he said. “Basically, what was presented to the grand jury were the facts, and the grand jury was to decide, did we need to actually charge the officer with anything? … Basically it was presented as a criminal case.”
At a separate press conference an hour later, Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox said Karneol had been placed on administrative leave after Truitt’s death but was back on full duty.
“I recognize that the loss of life is tragic,” Cox said. “I cannot imagine the pain that the Truitt family has endured during this time. I pray for that family every day. I also recognize the stress that any officer goes through when they have to use any use of force or (are) put in any situation that they have to use force, and I prayed for that officer and his family everyday, too. Both families will struggle with the emotions and feelings related to this event for many years to come.”
Broady said the officer acted in accordance with state law.
“Each of our police agencies has an SOP (standard operating procedure) for their use of force,” he said. “And, just following the (state law), it says that if an officer is chasing a felon who has a weapon, who can pose a danger to the others, he has the ability to fire, to use deadly force. And in this case, the officer followed his SOP to the letter and also followed the law.
“This is what I’ve told the police officers: that in any … officer-involved shooting, that I’ll present it to the grand jury, and let the grand jury make a decision based on our community’s citizens looking at what’s best for their community,” he continued. “I will not make a decision on my own that requires me to either show my bias or show emotion for what I’ve seen in live video. Because as an African American, you hate to see any African American shot down. But the fact is, we have to follow the law. And the law says the officer was within his rights.”
Truitt family attorney Gerald Griggs disagreed.
“This is not the end of this,” he said. “You don’t shoot somebody in the back twice.”