DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Douglas County authorities announced Monday they will not file criminal charges against an off-duty ICE officer who shot and killed a man in a Walmart parking lot.
At a Monday morning news conference, Douglas County District Attorney Ryan Leonard told reporters he does not anticipate bringing any warrants against Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officer O.L. Jones for the February 17 shooting death of 45-year-old Johnathan Liddell of Austell.
Joined by Douglasville Police Chief Gary Sparks and Douglas County Sheriff Tim Pounds, Leonard added he does not plan to present the case to a Douglas County Grand Jury.
The district attorney said, “In this case, it is our determination that Mr. Jones faced a reasonable threat and feared for his safety and the safety of his family, and therefore, he inflicted deadly force on Mr. Liddell.”
Leonard released surveillance video from a Walmart camera that shows the confrontation. He said Jones deliberately parked underneath the camera because he felt there would be a confrontation because he was being pursued by Liddell.
The video shows Jones getting out of his car, the car driven by Liddell pulling up next to him, and Jones firing a shot into the car. The agent told investigators, he shot Liddell after the man pointed a gun at him.
The D.A. showed reporters a picture of an airsoft gun they say was found in Liddell's vehicle. He said the medical examiner's report shows Liddell was shot once in the chest, which supports the agent's account of the shooting.
What doesn't appear on the video is what Jones told investigators happened moments earlier on Thornton Road. The district attorney said Jones, his wife and their three children were headed to Walmart after attending church when they came upon Liddell's vehicle stopped in the middle of traffic in front of them.
Jones managed to drive around Liddell after being stuck behind his vehicle for a couple of minutes. As they passed his car, the agent's wife saw Liddell do something that disturbed her.
"Looked over and saw Mr. Liddell appear to put on a hoodie and she also thought it appeared he did something to cover the lower portion of his face as well."
The agent's wife told him what she saw. As Jones pulled into the Walmart parking lot it appeared Liddell followed him. Leonard said that Agent Jones got out of his vehicle with his weapon at his side when Liddell pulled up next to him. "According to Mr. Jones' statement, he sees Mr. Liddell turned around from the driver's seat with a firearm in his right hand, pointed at Mr. Jones, and that's the point where Mr. Jones fires the shot."
Leonard called the shooting a tragedy for both the Liddell and Jones families.
Leonard said, “It’s also tragic that Mr. Jones was placed in a situation where he had to take someone’s life in front of his family. In the vehicle next to Mr. Liddell when he was killed was Mr. Jones’ wife as well as three children, his youngest child being 5 years old. Their lives have been changed forever by this incident.”
After the shooting, ICE Southern Region Communications Director Bryan Cox told FOX 5 his agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility had launched its own investigation in coordination with its law enforcement officers.