Takeaways from AP's report on new footage from the fatal shooting of a Black motorist in Georgia

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — In the summer following the 2020 police killing of George Floyd, the fatal shooting of Julian Lewis generated headlines far beyond rural Georgia.

The Georgia State Patrol quickly fired the trooper who opened fire on Lewis within seconds of forcing the Black motorist to drive into a ditch in Screven County. Trooper Jake Thompson was arrested on a murder charge and jailed, though a grand jury declined to indict him. The state of Georgia eventually paid Lewis' family a $4.8 million settlement.

But unlike Floyd's death — and so many other questionable uses of force by police — no footage of the Aug. 7, 2020, shooting has been made public until now. An Associated Press report and the never-before-released dashcam video have raised fresh questions about how the trooper avoided prosecution.

Here are key takeaways from the AP report.

Why is the video just coming out?

Dashcam footage of Lewis' shooting had been kept under wraps for nearly four years as state and federal authorities conducted their respective investigations. Those cases were closed last fall, making the video releasable as a public record.

Journalists Louise Story and Ebony Reed obtained the video as part of reporting for their new book “Fifteen Cents on the Dollar: How Americans Made the Black-White Wealth Gap.” They shared the footage with AP, which verified its authenticity and obtained additional investigative records that also have not previously been made public.

Thompson was not wearing a body camera, so the dashcam video is the only available footage of the shooting.

What does the footage show?

The video shows Thompson following Lewis for what he later said was a broken taillight. A few minutes into the pursuit, Lewis points a hand out the window of his Nissan Sentra and turns onto a darkened dirt road. Lewis rolls through an intersection with a stop sign before Thompson uses a tactical maneuver to force the vehicle into a ditch.

The video does not show the actual shooting, but it captured audio of Thompson barking, “Hey, get your hands up!” He does not even finish the warning before the gunshot is heard. Investigators determined Thompson fired 1.6 seconds after stopping his patrol cruiser.

Use-of-force experts said the shooting appeared to be unjustified.

“This goes beyond a stupid mistake,” said Charles “Joe” Key, a former Baltimore police lieutenant and use-of-force expert who has consulted on thousands of such cases.

What happened to the trooper?

Thompson spent more than 100 days in jail but walked free without a trial. A state grand jury in 2021 declined to bring an indictment in the case, and the district attorney overseeing the case closed it.

The U.S. Justice Department considered civil rights charges against Thompson but instead entered into a non-prosecution agreement with him that forbids him from ever working in law enforcement again.

“It’s inadequate,” said Lewis’ son, Brook Bacon. “I thought the shortcomings that occurred at the state level would be more thoroughly examined at the federal level, but that’s apparently not the case.”

Neither Thompson nor his attorney, Keith Barber, would discuss the case. District Attorney Daphne Totten did not respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Georgia’s Southern District, which reached the non-prosecution deal with Thompson, declined to discuss it except to say the Justice Department communicated with the Lewis family “consistent with the law and DOJ policy.”

Russ Bynum And Jim Mustian, The Associated Press