ATLANTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The State of Georgia has reached a record $4.8M settlement with the widow of Julian E. Lewis. Lewis was a black man who was fatally shot by a Georgia State Trooper in 2020.

Lewis was shot after a state trooper pulled him over in Screven County for an alleged broken tail light while he was on the way to the store to buy his wife a soda.

It is believed that Lewis was trying 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 potential events.

Lewis activated turn signals in both directions, often used as a sign of acknowledgement to an officer. The trooper then crashed into Lewis’s Nissan Sentra using a PIT maneuver with enough force to spin Lewis’s car in the opposite direction. According to GBI testimony, less than 2 seconds passed from the time the trooper opened the door to his vehicle and fired a shot that killed 60-year-old Lewis instantly.

In an incident report, the trooper wrote that he heard the Lewis’s engine “revving at a high rate of speed” after the PIT maneuver crash, claiming it made him fear for his life which prompted the shooting.

After further invesitgation, it was discovered that neither tail light on Lewis’s car was in a condition to justify probable cause for a stop, and found the impact of the PIT manuver made it impossible for the engine to revv on Lewis’s car.

Georgia officials refused to release patrol car dash cam video footage of the incident, and the
trooper wasn’t wearing a body camera.

According to the press release, The department’s most recent report for 2018 showed 1,725 incidents involving use of force, and 59% of those were with Black individuals. Black people account for just 33% of the population in the state of Georgia, according to the U.S. Census data for 2021.

Georgia Department of Public Safety policies require the department to create an annual use of
force statistical analysis. Joan Crumpler, Director of the Legal Services Division for the Georgia
Department of Public Safety, acknowledged that the department involved did not engage in the analysis or
create reports for 2019 or 2020.

This settlement secured by leading civil rights and personal injury litigation firm Hall & Lampros is the largest tort settlement in Georgia history according to records dating back to 1990. The settlement exceeds the statutory maximum provided under the Georgia Tort Claims Act.

Andrew Lampros, Co-Founder & Partner at Hall & Lampros in Atlanta 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. The events of that August night should never have happened. Shooting an unarmed man without cause is unconscionable, and violates the freedom that the United States Constitution guarantees all individuals. We were prepared to sue the trooper, the department and its leadership asserting both Constitutional claims as well as state law tort claims.”

Lampros worked with co-counsel Akil K. Secret, who recently joined Hall & Lampros as Of Counsel, and Bob Isaacson of Savannah. The case was mediated by Hon. Gino Brogdon, Sr., a respected mediator and arbitrator who previously presided in complex felony and civil cases for a decade in Superior and State Courts in Fulton County in Atlanta.

Full Press Release below