Cop Kills Unarmed Man at His Place of Work Over Unpaid Traffic Fines, Then Gets Huge Promotion

Smyrna, GA — After killing Nicholas Thomas on March 24, 2015, under questionable circumstances at the Goodyear store where he worked, Smyrna Police Sgt. Kenneth Owens was cleared of any wrongdoing, and is now being promoted to lieutenant.


“In a release sent to 11Alive News on Tuesday, the Smyrna Police Department confirmed that Owens is being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant effective Monday, February 15, 2016,” the local NBC affiliate reported; and according to that statement, “Sgt. Owens is eligible and qualified for this position as prescribed by departmental policy.”

Considering the questions surrounding Thomas’ death, his family, as well as many others in the community, would likely beg to differ.

Thomas was working at the Atlanta Goodyear Service Center, when Owens and several other officers came to serve a warrant for an alleged probation violation by the young father, reportedly over traffic violations. Startled by the officers' appearance at his workplace, Thomas reportedly jumped into a customer’s Maserati to flee.

“The suspect drove his car toward officers, putting officers in fear for their lives, at which time the officers fired into the vehicle, shooting the suspect,” said Smyrna Police Sgt. Ed Cason the following day, as 11Alive reported at the time.

Questions arose when the Cobb County medical examiner found the bullet had entered Thomas in his upper right back — hardly the location or entry point one would expect if an officer fired into a vehicle because he thought it would run him over.

“Of all the officers there, only one felt his life was threatened,” said Thomas’ family lawyer Mawuli Davis, as the Free Thought Project previously reported. “Unless a car can travel sideways, I don’t know how you can be in fear for your life.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Cobb County Police Department both asserted the fatal shooting was “justified under the facts and the law.”

The fear of an imminent threat to an officer’s life — the justification for and cause of subsequent no-fault finding in this incident — appears to have been based on Owens’ hypothetical assessment of what Thomas was planning to do. As Thomas careened around the store’s parking lot, looking for a way out since officers had blocked the only vehicle entry and exit point, Owens and other police jumped out of the way. Owens claimed he feared an approaching officer might be struck by the vehicle if Thomas rounded the corner of the store quickly, so he decided to open fire.

Despite the lingering questions surrounding the shooting, Sgt. Owens will soon be promoted to Lt. Owens.

Seneca Police Lt. Mark Tiller made the same assertion when he shot and killed 19-year-old Zachary Hammond for possessing  a small amount of marijuana. Officer Ray Tensing was caught on video killing Sam Dubose in a similar fashion. In September, cellphone footage was released showing police killing 33-year-old John Barry, a mentally ill man who attempted to flee from police during a breakdown.

One of the most disgusting examples of cops claiming to fear for their lives as cars drive off is the case of officers Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse, Jr., who in November, opened fire on a car occupied by 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis, killing him and severely injuring his father.

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.