A Dothan attorney and family members of a man shot to death by police renewed their call Friday for a federal investigation into the shooting. Mark Overall also called for the suspension of District Attorney Doug Valeska, claiming the prosecutor committed crimes when presenting evidence to a Houston County Grand Jury.
"There has been a formal complaint filed with several federal and state agencies," Overall said. Among those is the Department of Justice. "He also claims to have spoken with a representative of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The complaints being alleged are a pattern and set of practices exhibited by the Dothan Police Department, the Houston County Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's office, and Doug Valeska personally." The written complaint was first published Thursday after a copy was provided to DothanFirst.com.
Specifically, Overall focused on a recent grand jury investigation that determined a police officer was justified when he shot Christopher Thomas to death following a pursuit. "It doesn't surprise me given the way Mr. Valeska presided over the grand jury proceedings," Overall said. "He (Valeska) spent the entire week (of the grand jury session) scrutinizing, discrediting, and basically belittling the witnesses." Overall said the district attorney threatened to arrest witnesses and, indeed, did arrest two of them. They are charged with perjury before the grand jury.
"(Our request) asks that Valeska's office be removed from all matters dealing with this case and the officer's actions be presented to a federal grand jury that is presided over and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office. "Obviously, Mr. Valeska doesn't feel, because of his relationship with the Dothan Police Department, to advocate for the family of Christopher Jerome Thomas."
Valeksa denies any wrongdoing in his handling of grand jury evidence and testimony. "It is my job to present evidence and I did exactly that," he said. "The grand jury voted, without me present, and decided there was not sufficient evidence to find wrongdoing on the part of the officer."
Valeska reiterated that had Thomas pulled over instead of trying to flee the officer, he would have not been shot. "It's sad that a young man had to lose his life but he refused to stop. When you see blue lights behind, you know to pull over."
Dothan Police Chief Greg Benton claims Thomas tried to use his SUV to run over the officer who had gotten out of his patrol car when the chase came to a brief halt in a shopping center parking lot along Montgomery Highway. Some witnesses who work nearby claim Thomas never tried to strike the officer.
Overall said he also plans to file a federal wrongful death lawsuit in the near future.