This photo from the Screven County Sheriff’s Office jail booking shows former Georgia State soldier Jacob Thompson. Thompson, who worked for the Georgia State Patrol, was arrested for the murder and serious assault in the death of 60-year-old Julian Lewis last August 2020. After the case was brought to a Screven County grand jury on Monday, June 28, 2021, the jury did not charge Thompson with any of the charges. (Screven County Sheriff’s Office via AP

This photo from the Screven County Sheriff’s Office jail booking shows former Georgia State soldier Jacob Thompson. Thompson, who worked for the Georgia State Patrol, was arrested for the murder and serious assault in the death of 60-year-old Julian Lewis last August 2020. After the case was brought to a Screven County grand jury on Monday, June 28, 2021, the jury did not charge Thompson with any of the charges. (Screven County Sheriff’s Office via AP

ATLANTA (AP) – A grand jury declined to indict a former Georgia State soldier who shot and killed a black man last year after trying to stop him over a broken taillight.

Jacob Thompson, who worked for the Georgia State Patrol, was arrested for murder and grievous bodily harm in the death of 60-year-old Julian Lewis on August 7th. After the case was brought to a Screven County grand jury on Monday, the grand jurors did not charge Thompson with any of the charges.

Francys Johnson, an attorney for Lewis’ family, said she wanted to see video of the shooting. He also called on Prosecutor Daphne Totten to hire another grand jury to try again to get an indictment.

A woman who answered the phone in Totten’s office on Tuesday said the prosecutor was on trial in a different district. Totten did not immediately respond to phone and email messages asking for comments.

Keith Barber, a Thompson attorney, issued a statement thanking the grand jury for “diligently listening to the evidence in this case and arriving at this just and fair decision.”

“We trust this will be the end of this long ordeal the Thompson family wrongly went through because trooper Jake Thompson only does his job to protect the citizens of Georgia,” said Barber.

Lewis’s family lawyers had applauded Thompson’s arrest a week after the shooting and subsequent release by the Georgia State Patrol. They were further encouraged when Screven District Judge F. Gates Peed initially turned down the loan on Thompson’s behalf in September, saying it was “inappropriate” to allow a loan to take place at that moment, given the facts. Peed issued a $ 100,000 bond in November after seven people, including four law enforcement officers, testified on Thompson’s behalf.

Lewis’ family lawyers on Tuesday expressed disappointment with the grand jury’s decision, saying the system too often failed to do black people justice.

“Make no mistake, we think this was a very strong case,” Johnson said during a livestream press conference in Savannah. “The evidence was there. It still is.”

Barber said Thompson, his family and his defense team offered condolences to Lewis’ family, but he defended Thompson’s actions.

“Jake Thompson has committed no crime in relation to his interaction with Julian Lewis,” said Barber. “He clearly showed that in this situation he only acted in self-defense.”

Thompson, who is white, tried to stop Lewis in rural Screven County near Georgia’s South Carolina border because of a broken taillight. When Lewis didn’t stop immediately, the soldier chased him and forced his car into a ditch, then shot Lewis in the head.

Thompson wrote in his incident report that he shot Lewis when Lewis cranked up his engine and turned his steering wheel as if trying to ram the soldier. But Dustin Peak of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation testified in September that it was impossible because Lewis’ car battery was disconnected when it drove into the ditch, rendering the vehicle inoperable.

Peak testified that the dash camera video showed a second between the soldier getting out of his patrol vehicle and the firing of the shot that killed Lewis.

Johnson noted that prosecutors have great power in the indictment process and can essentially present what they want to present, how they want to present it. The “probable cause” standard of evidence required to bring an indictment is much lower than the “beyond reasonable doubt” level required to convict someone in court.

While the grand jury procedures are secret and individuals charged with a crime generally do not have the opportunity to appear before grand juries to present their side, there is an exception in Georgian law that allows police officers to do so be charged with crimes, testify in front of a grand jury.

Johnson said he wanted to see the transcript of the grand jury trial: “If the presentation went the way the prosecution has gone, we won’t be surprised what we see when there is an under-zealous prosecutor.”