Family members of a 17-year-old shot and killed by a Cobb County police officer -and their attorneys- say they’re encouraged by recent decisions in two similar cases-hoping that it will add muscle to their contention that the Cobb officer should be prosecuted for shooting teenager Vincent Truitt. Truitt was shot in the back July 13 last year as he apparently ran away following an alleged stolen-car chase.
To that end, they’re continuing to work drafting legal paperwork asking Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and U-S Attorney general Merrick Garland’s U-S Department of Justice to intervene in the case following a Cobb County grand jury’s recommendation that no action be taken.
In an interview with the Courier, attorney Gerald Griggs said that new evidence has come to light. He said that evidence centers on what he described as similar incidents involving officer Max Karneol, the officer who fired the fatal shots and contradictory statements he may have made, but Griggs declined give further details.
In the other cases, the U-S Justice Department has opened a wide-ranging investigation of Minneapolis police practices. The announcement came just days after former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in the killing of George Floyd last year.
Griggs called the Chauvin conviction ” a relief” and said that it hopefully sends a message that “there are serious issues that need to be resolved and the public needs to have confidence in the prosecution of police officers.”
The father of the slain teen, Andre Truitt, agreed saying “it’s a step in the right direction. I just want justice for my son.”
“I think (it shows) America has a problem that it definitely needs to see about when it comes to police brutality,” Truitt added.
Griggs noted that in the Chauvin case, Minnesota’s attorney general stepped in to take over the investigation at the urging of Floyd’s family, community activists and some elected officials.
He said that’s why he and his staff are drafting official paperwork asking Carr to review the case top-to-bottom, as well as asking Garland for an investigation of potential civil rights violations.
He said he intends for that to be completed in the next two or three months.
“We don’t believe the district attorney in Cobb County has the courage to do what’s right,” said Griggs. “The law is quite clear on this case and the facts are quite clear. We think that if (DA Flynn Broady) had the courage to do what Keith Ellison did up in Minnesota, the result would have been the same.”
Broady, for his part, has maintained that the law is equally clear in showing that officer Karneol was within the law when he fatally shot the teen.
He told reporters in February that “the law says if an officer is chasing a felon who has a weapon and can pose a danger to others, he has the ability to fire and use deadly force.”
But attorneys for the family and family members have contended that the shooting was not justified because Truitt was running away after exiting the passenger side of the stolen vehicle and did not pose a threat.
A family member said that in addition to applying pressure for a state and federal review, they’ll continue to attend rallies and speak out on the case,
“I will continue to fight because it’s more than just Vincent. There are so many babies being murdered by those who are supposed to serve and protect them, “said Venethia Cook-Lewis, mother of Truitt.
She said that she’s been unable to work since her son’s death.
Griggs said the team has spoken to both state and federal officials about actions designed to attack systemic racism and level the playing field, including changing provisions in state law giving police officers special privileges before grand juries not enjoyed by the general public.
Vincent Truitt’s godfather, Damon Horn, chimed in that the family will continue an active public role, seeking not only what they regard as justice in the Vincent Truitt case, but other changes as well, such as working to preserve voting rights.
“We are living up to what we probably should have been doing all along,” Horn said, “even more on the front line demanding and bringing attention to all the injustices done to people of color.”
Spokespersons for both the Cobb County Police Department and the District Attorney’s office declined to comment for this story.