SCREVEN COUNTY, Ga. — The family of Julian Lewis, a Black man shot and killed by a state trooper in southeast Georgia more than a year ago, has reached a nearly $5 million settlement with the state according to their attorneys.
In a release, lawyers with Hall & Lampros, LLP said Lewis' widow Betty secured what they said was a record settlement with the state of Georgia, $4.8 million.
"While the record-making settlement does not bring back her husband for widow Betty Lewis and other family and loved ones, it sends a powerful message to the State and those in law enforcement and other positions of power that unnecessary use of force against innocent citizens is unlawful, morally corrupt and carries legal consequences," the law firm said in its release.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Lewis was shot once and killed by Jacob Thompson, a white trooper, following a chase in Screven County on Aug. 7, 2020.
The attorneys for Lewis' widow said Thompson initiated a traffic stop for an alleged broken taillight, even though his taillight was not broken. They said he was on his way to the store to buy a soda for his wife when the incident began.
The GBI has said Lewis did not stop, and that the subsequent chase went down several county roads, ending when Thompson performed a PIT maneuver.
According to the bureau, Thompson "fired one round" and Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene.
"It is believed that Lewis was attempting to drive toward a more familiar area where he knew other people would be present — a practice commonly taught to people who may feel vulnerable in isolated areas where there is nobody else present to witness events," attorneys said, describing the events leading to Lewis' death. "Lewis activated his turn signals in both directions, which is often a sign of acknowledgement to an officer."
They said that "less than two seconds passed from the time the trooper opened the door" to the time he fired the shot that killed Lewis.
The attorneys also said they reviewed an incident report, in which Thompson wrote he heard Lewis' engine "revving at a high rate of speed" and making him fear for his life.
According to the law firm, though, an investigation "proved that neither taillight on Lewis’s car was in a condition to justify probable cause for a stop, and that the PIT maneuver caused Lewis’s battery cable and air filter to disengage — which completely disabled the engine in his Nissan Sentra, making it impossible to rev as the trooper stated in the incident report."
The attorneys said they have never been given the dashcam video from the shooting, and that there was no bodycam video.
The settlement is "the largest in Georgia history in state records dating back to 1990," the law firm said.
“Our hearts grieve for Betty Lewis, who lost her Golden Years with her husband because of unwarranted and unnecessary deadly force during what should have been a routine traffic stop,” Andrew Lampros, the co-founder of the firm, said.