MARIETTA — A grand jury will decide in February whether to bring charges against the unnamed Cobb police officer who shot and killed 17-year-old Vincent Truitt while he was fleeing arrest last summer. That isn’t good enough, Truitt’s family said Saturday.
Family members and about two dozen supporters gathered at Marietta’s Glover Park Saturday afternoon to pressure Cobb’s newly elected District Attorney Flynn Broady into charging the officer with murder and releasing a video of Truitt’s death captured by the officer’s body camera.
That the self-styled “progressive prosecutor” has resisted these calls is, family members said, tantamount to a bait-and-switch.
“We’re playing politics and it’s p---ing me off that people make promises that they know they’re not going to keep just for the sake of playing politics with lives,” Arthur Washington, Truitt’s principal at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate High School, told the crowd.
Broady denied the accusation Saturday, saying he had promised he would share the video with the family and send the case to a grand jury. His predecessor, Republican Joyette Holmes, shared the video with the family the day after the election. Broady said he intends to keep his other promise.
But the family’s attorneys, Gerald Griggs and Maria Banjo, said Broady’s decision to go straight to a grand jury went against standard procedure.
“(If) you have probable cause, you present the case to a magistrate court judge who issues a warrant, and then you go arrest the person, and then they go through the preliminary hearing, and then it’s presented to a grand jury,” Griggs said. “So we’re cutting out steps, and my question to (Broady) is, why are we cutting out steps?"
Broady denied this as well.
“Mr. Griggs is referring to the way Paul Howard did his case down in Fulton County, trying to get political persuasion,” Broady said, referring to the recently ousted Fulton district attorney. In a case that received national attention last year, Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe on June 12 shot and killed Rayshard Brooks, who had wrestled a taser from Rolfe in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant and pointed it at him while fleeing. Before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had completed its investigation of Brooks’ death, Howard charged Rolfe with murder, a decision applauded by some and denounced by others who saw it as a desperate ploy to burnish his progressive credentials ahead of the election.
“Here in Cobb County, we have always sent, and will always send, every officer-involved shooting to a grand jury, so we can get a decision from this community that the grand jury represents that is not tainted by politics or by someone’s emotions or by someone’s particular party persuasion,” Broady said.
The video of Truitt’s death has not been made public due to an exemption to the state’s open records law, which allows the government to withhold information pertinent to a pending investigation.
Truitt’s relatives are convinced the video will prove he never brandished a weapon and that the officer had no reason to fear for his life or shoot the teenager.
“The question is, if (the officer) was a danger, why is this officer the only one that pulled out his weapon?” Banjo said. “He wasn’t the only (officer) there.”
Should the grand jury decide against charging the officer, Broady said he would release the video of Truitt’s death within a week.
Truitt was one of three teens in a stolen car during an attempted traffic stop July 13, 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 and south of the Riverside EpiCenter in Austell.
Truitt and one of the car’s other passengers ran, the GBI said.
A Cobb County police officer who authorities have not identified 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.
The Cobb Medical Examiner found Truitt had been shot twice from behind and ruled Truitt’s death a homicide. The office said the ruling means Truitt’s death was caused by the actions of another and does not indicate whether a crime had been committed.