Report: No officers charged in the police killing of 17-year-old Vincent Truitt, D.A. says case is closed

Newly elected Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady did not present charges to the grand jury, family suing for $50 million

Photo of Vincent Truitt provided to media by the family.

COBB COUNTY, GA. — A grand jury in Cobb County delivered its decision on Thurs., Feb. 18, to not file charges against Cobb County police officer Max Karneol who shot and killed 17-year-old Vincent Truitt last summer. The officer\’s body cam video footage was finally released after the grand jury decision. The family was not able to view the video prior to its release.

Truitt was shot and killed on July 13, 2020, after exiting a stolen car following a police chase near Austell, Ga. He was one of three teens inside the vehicle that was spotted by police that night about 11:20 p.m. He later died in the hospital, and the Cobb County Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide. He is survived by his mother and his grandmother.

Attorneys Gerald Griggs, Maria Banjo, and Jackie Patterson held a press conference with Truitt’s family after they learned of the grand jury’s decision last Thursday. Both Griggs and Patterson stated that they, just like the press, had just learned of the grand jury decision, which violates the family’s right to “reasonable, accurate, and timely notice” of the process and the decision. They also informed the media that having read the grand jury decision in full, they came to understand that the grand jury was not a criminal grand jury, but a civil grand jury.

A copy of the findings of the grand jury decision in Vincent Truitt\’s case. Provided to The Mainline by attorney Gerald Griggs on Feb. 18, 2021.

“We question whether or not it was, in fact, a criminal grand jury,” Griggs told the press. “I can say that because having practiced law for a substantial amount of time, a criminal grand jury either returns a true bill or a no bill. This appears to be a recommendation of no action. So we have some questions and concerns for the district attorney regarding this case.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, newly elected Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady said the grand jury was “shown video and given facts of the case, but left to decide for themselves whether any charges should be brought against the officer.” However, while the D.A. presented the case to the grand jury, he did not provide a full presentment of charges, which means the grand jury was never given the opportunity to consider charges against the officer.

Broady says the case is now considered closed and it has been confirmed that Karneol is still employed by the Cobb County Police Department.

Patterson, who is a former police officer, former police chief, and spent twenty years as a judge, elaborated, saying, “The district attorney in this case, not only has he hood-winked, bamboozled, and duped us; he did the same thing to the media. The documents being presented that’s being shown to the media, it says the grand jury recommends no further action. That is not an indictment of a no bill. In other words, ask the district attorney to show you the indictment where the grand jury said, ‘We hereby no bill the officer.’ You won’t find it. This was a civil grand jury. A civil grand jury is only authorized to recommend further action or not.”

It is unclear why Broady took the case to a civil grand jury rather than a criminal grand jury. While the family and advocates have been demanding transparency since Truitt was killed, Cobb County just recently released the full body cam video revealing the shooting as well as the name of the officer who pulled the trigger. The district attorney’s office waited until after the grand jury decision to release the evidence. The video shows that, although a gun was in Truitt’s possession, he was running away from Officer Karneol with his back turned. Karneol shot Truitt twice in the back within seconds of him exiting the stolen vehicle on the scene.

Further, there have been inconsistencies in Cobb County Police Chief Tim Cox’s statements to the press regarding the incident. In his first statement, Cox claimed that Truitt pointed his gun at police, while the video clearly shows that he did not. In his second statement, Cox claimed Truitt was driving the vehicle, while he was a passenger. There has been no proof that Truitt was a felon.

Griggs posted a statement on his social media accounts clarifying that “under OCGA 17-4-20b, [Vincent] was not an immediate threat.” That section of Georgia law states that: 

“Sheriffs and peace officers … may use deadly force to apprehend a suspected felon only when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect possesses a deadly weapon or any object, device, or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury; when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect poses an immediate threat of physical violence to the officer or others; or when there is probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm. Nothing in this Code section shall be construed so as to restrict such sheriffs or peace officers from the use of such reasonable nondeadly force as may be necessary to apprehend and arrest a suspected felon or misdemeanant.

Although Truitt appeared to be involved in the case of a stolen vehicle, there was no evidence that Truitt had posed deadly or imminent danger to officers on the scene. Prior to his election, Broady agreed with that statement.

In a previous interview I conducted with Broady on Oct. 29, 2020, just five days before election day, I asked him about Truitt’s case as many parts of the nation grappled with the recent grand jury decision in the Breonna Taylor case in Louisville, Ky. When asked to further detail Truitt’s case (about 20 minutes in), Broady told me, “What the [Georgia Bureau of Investigation] has let out so far is that at no time did Truitt point the weapon or make a gesture with the weapon towards the officer. The police officer shot him in the back two times … This young man, at 17 years old, was taken away, and his family has a right to know a reason. The young man did not pose a threat; he was murdered. And charges should be brought on the officer that committed that murder.”

Banjo, a former prosecutor who also serves as legislative and resolution analyst for the Georgia House Democrats, was clear to point out that Broady violated the family’s rights on multiple occasions.

“We specifically noted we did not want a Breonna Taylor situation,” she said, alluding to the similarities between the cases in how they were handled with no charges being presented to the grand juries. Banjo also explained in detail how Broady violated and disrespected the rights of Truitt’s family, saying, “When Vincent Truitt’s mother was laying on the ground — crying, mourning — he looked at her and turned his back and said, ‘I can’t handle that.’”

Truitt’s grandmother also shared in the press conference that she and the family had met with Broady twice, remarking that he was “condescending” and “has talked down to the family.”

Both Griggs and Patterson have confirmed the family is planning to file a lawsuit against Cobb County and the Cobb County Police Department for $50 million.

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