Police announce arrest in off-duty shooting death of Ga. sheriff’s deputy
The deputy was found dead in the driver’s seat of his wrecked vehicle after “some type of argument that escalated to the gunfire”
By Rosana Hughes
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA — Atlanta police have arrested a man in the fatal shooting of a Fulton County deputy last week, officials announced Tuesday.
Deputy James Thomas, 24, originally from Mississippi, was found dead in the driver’s seat of his wrecked gray Ford Fusion in the 1900 block of Bolton Road around 4:30 a.m. Thursday. He was assigned to the detention unit at Grady Memorial Hospital and was at work the night before.
A suspect was identified soon after, and by Monday, police arrested 26-year-old Alton Deshawn Oliver and charged him with murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, records show.
Oliver was on foot at the time of the shooting, Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said during a Tuesday morning news conference.
There was “some type of argument that escalated to the gunfire,” he said, adding that Thomas and Oliver did not appear to have known each other.
Authorities said last week that the driver of a van contacted police to report having struck Thomas’ car around the time of the incident, though investigators did not believe that person was involved in the shooting.
The person reported seeing Thomas “driving erratically” in the middle of Bolton Road, and when they tried to pass his vehicle is when the person believed they heard gunfire, Atlanta police Maj. Pete Malecki said last week. The van and Thomas’ vehicle then collided.
Hampton said Thomas had been struck by gunfire immediately before crashing into the van.
“This is a result of good police work in bringing individuals who commit heinous crimes — bringing those individuals to justice,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said of the arrest.
“This is a preventable death,” he added. “Atlanta’s (gun violence problem) is a group project, and our lives are intertwined as we are all responsible, really responsible, truly, for each other.”
Authorities said a truck driver’s dash camera footage and the city’s network of security cameras were instrumental in identifying a suspect.
Thomas had been with the sheriff’s office for less than a year after being recruited from the Milledgeville Police Department, Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat previously said.
The sheriff said Thomas was popular among his colleagues despite his short tenure, describing him as “the life of the party” and having a “very good spirit.”
“He was what you would want in a deputy,” he said.
On Tuesday, Labat again joined the countless law enforcement and government leaders who have called for an end to senseless shootings.
“This endless gun violence needs to stop,” he said.
“Early last Thursday morning, I had an unenviable task of reaching out to a mother and reaching out to a family — reaching out to our work family to inform them of the loss of Fulton County Deputy James Thomas,” he continued. “As you can imagine, we are grieving with the family. But we’re also wrapping our arms around the family in love and supporting them.”
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