Police: Body camera video reveals seven officers were justified in deadly shooting

Image 1 of 8

New body cam video shows how a deadly showdown between Athens-Clarke County Police and a man who appeared to be armed unfolded.

Seven officers opened fire on 34-year-old Thomas Swinford following a nearly 20-minute standoff on Friday night. Police say Swinford refused to drop what appeared to be a real gun, but what later turned out to be an airsoft gun.

Officers initially responded when family members said Swinford stole their car. Swinford showed up to that family member's house while officers were at the scene carrying an airsoft gun that looked like a handgun.

Police asked him to put down the gun, but "he didn't comply with the direction of the officers, and he fled the scene," said Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Cleveland Lee Spruill Sr.

RELATED: Police: Georgia man killed after charging officers with gun

Officers found Swinford blocks away in a car on Westlake Drive.

"Mr. Swinford got out of the car and a tense 20-minute standoff ensued," said Spruill. Police on numerous occasions asked him to put the gun down, but police say Swinford didn't listen. Instead, he kept walking towards officers, "And raised his arm on the right side of his body and pointed his gun at the officers," said Spruill.

That's when seven officers fired at Swinford, striking him.

"Multiple officers that were on scene at this point feared for their lives," said Spruill.
Swinford was transported to the hospital but didn't make it. Police say these officers were justified in this shooting because there was no way to tell the airsoft gun was just a toy.

"If something like this was pointed at them, I can assure you that the response is going to be lethal force, and that's going to be justifiable under the law," said Spruill.

The GBI is now handling this investigation. All seven officers are now on paid administrative leave, which is routine in the case of an officer-involved shooting.