A Houston County Grand Jury has found a Dothan police officer was justified when he shot a man to death earlier this year. A source familiar with the grand jury report confirmed the officer was cleared in the death of 22-year old Christopher Thomas who was shot at the conclusion of a pursuit in June.
Calls to District Attorney Doug Valeska seeking comment were not immediately answered. However, the veteran prosecutor is quoted in an online Dothan Eagle article. "The grand jury made a decision on the facts outside the presence of the DA. The grand jury looked at all options in whether law enforcement was justified in using deadly force," Valeska told The Eagle. The district attorney recently presented evidence to the grand jury after findings from an Alabama Bureau of Investigation probe were turned over to him.
Meanwhile, a complaint has been filed with the U.S. Justice Department regarding the shooting. Attorney Mark Overall plans a press conference Friday to discuss specifics of the complaint.
Thomas was shot in the parking lot of a shopping center in the 1500 block of Montgomery Highway. Police Chief Greg Benton said the officer fired after Thomas tried to strike the officer with the SUV he was driving. The vehicle then crossed the highway and crashed into a sign business. One person inside was injured.
Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, advisor and spokesperson for the Thomas family, said he was disappointed in the decision. "We need transparency and there was none (in this investigation)," he said. Glasgow is critical of Valeska and the way evidence was presented to the grand jury, claiming the case was slanted in favor of the officer.
He also takes issue with claims Thomas tried to strike the officer with his vehicle. Glasgow claims witnesses say that never happened. "It's just not right," Glasgow said.
Two witnesses who testified before the grand jury have been arrested and charged with perjury