COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The family of Vincent Truitt, a teenager who was shot and killed in July 2020 at the end of a chase of a stolen car he wasn't driving, is suing Cobb County for $150 million in what attorneys are characterizing as the largest lawsuit in the history of the state of Georgia over a police shooting.
Attorney Gerald Griggs, in announcing the lawsuit, said in a release that 17-year-old Truitt's family "has suffered long enough" and "we look forward to fully litigating this case."
In a statement, Cobb County said: "We are aware of the lawsuit and will vigorously litigate it in federal court."
A Cobb County grand jury ruled the shooting justified in Feb. 2021. Griggs, however, cited a Texas case in which a shooting was ruled justified by the local district attorney before a jury nonetheless awarded the man's family $67 million in a federal civil trial.
The man, in that case, Landon Nobles, was running away from police when he was shot and killed - similar circumstances to Truitt's death. Police body cam video showed the teen getting shot as he ran from officers after he got out of the car on the passenger side.
The police narrative contended Truitt had "brandished" a weapon as he ran, with his family and attorneys saying the video showed he was running with his back to the officer who fired, never pointing anything at him or even turning back toward him, and clearly did not pose a threat.
The lawsuit, which 11Alive has obtained a copy of, states again that as Truitt "was exiting the vehicle, he posed no danger" to the officer who fired on him.
"At the time Truitt was shot, his back was turned and did not pose a physical threat of harm," to the officer, the suit says, adding that the officer's actions "were not objectively reasonable."
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The suit lays blame on Cobb County for what it alleges as a range of training failures by the Cobb County Police Department resulting in Truitt's death.
"Cobb County maintained defective customs and policies," it says. Officers in the department "received deficient oversight and training in the use of force and firearms that did not adequately address the prevention of excessive force by the intentional discharges of firearms in situations where other non-lethal means of force was required in detaining suspects."
Those deficiencies, the suit alleges, "were a policy defect that was a contributing cause of the shooting of Vincent Demario Truitt."
It goes on to allege oversight failures, as it was "known by department officials that excessive use of force by intentional firearms discharges had been a problem within the department," and that there were "no written directives to put officers on notice that they were subject to discipline for use of excessive force by a firearm."
The suit contends the county exhibited a "deliberate indifference to the problem of excessive use of force with firearms."
The suit calls for a jury trial and seeks $50 million for Truitt's mother, $50 million for his father, and $50 million for his estate as damages.
Last year after the grand jury decision was announced, Cobb County Police Chief Tim Cox gave a statement in which he re-read through the police account of what happened and presented a video of the dash camera and body camera video.
Cox said he had prayed for both the family and the officer who shot Truitt.
"I cannot imagine the pain the family has endured at this time," he said. "I pray for this family every day. I also recognize the stress that any officer goes through when they have to use any use of force, and I've prayed for that officer and his family every day, too."
The officer has returned to active duty with the Cobb County Police Department.