COBB COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Cobb County police say they will not be charging anyone in the verbal confrontation between a pregnant black Georgia lawmaker and a white man at a grocery store.
In a tearful Facebook video posted Friday, state Rep. Erica Thomas said she was in the express line because she is nine months pregnant and cannot stand for long.
It was there that she said Eric Sparkes walked up to her and berated her for being in the line with too many items. Thomas said Sparkes swore at her and told her to "go back where she came from."
Thomas' video went viral as the hashtag #IStandwithErica trended on Twitter.
While Sparkes admitted swearing at Thomas, he claims he never told her to "go back," arguing that he's Cuban, a Democrat, and not racist.
At a press conference on Monday, Thomas' lawyer said witnesses, surveillance video and an investigation underway by the Cobb police department will support Thomas' account of what happened.
But after what Cobb County police called "a thorough investigation," on Tuesday police advised both parties that no charges will be made.
Monday, Sparkes told FOX 5 News he was looking into exploring the possibility of suing the lawmaker for "defamation of character."
"She took an innocuous situation and made it a national debate about race when the situation that occurred in Publix was never about race," he said.
Statement from Georgia Representative Erica Thomas:
"In the ninth month of my pregnancy, I never imagined that I would find myself in the middle of divisive, and violent action against me. Verbal abuse, proximity control and micro-aggressions are acts of violence and especially against a woman in the vulnerable state of pregnancy. Friday, July 19, 2020, will be a date forever burned into my memory and the memory of my 9-year-old daughter Dakota. A routine stop at our neighborhood grocery store turned into a hellish nightmare.
"The Publix on Veterans Parkway in Mableton GA is not only a store I frequently use, but it is also in District 39. A district I love and have served for the past five years, and I plan to continue to serve District 39 as its duly elected representative. It is bar none the best district in the State of Georgia where my constituents live, work, raise families, shop, retire, visit parks and maintain a good quality of life.
"That is why this incident is so disturbing. Mr. Sparkes deplorable actions in the Publix are a matter of community safety. No one has the right to verbally assault, enter the personal space of or intimidate in a civil society.
"There are many lessons to be learned from this incident:
- The National Climate: There is no mistaking how the recent
attacks on Women of Color from The White House has created a tense racial climate in our nation. The lack of civility and name-calling must end so we can work together to build stronger communities.
- Victim Shaming: Too many victims are silenced or pushed into hiding because of the "victim shaming" culture experienced physically and/or online.
- Violence Against Women: The VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) must be reauthorized by Congress to protect women and girls.
- Law Enforcement Accountability: My decision to involve law enforcement wasn't just about my incident but about the safety of the community. After learning more about my assailant's past violence against women, I became even more concerned, especially after his dogged attempts to continue to humiliate and to berate me online."
"My family loves this community, this state, and this country. My husband is currently serving away from home in the United States military and I serve the people of the State of Georgia. I will continue to work diligently to advocate for victims of violence and injustice."
Additional Comment from Attorney Gerald Griggs:
"We are deeply disappointed in the decision by the Cobb County Police Department to not bring charges or adequately question Eric Sparkes. Mr. Sparkes actions on Friday, July 19th, as well as his subsequent actions prove that he has developed a personal vendetta against Ms. Thomas. Our legal team has thoroughly investigated this case. We have learned that Mr. Sparkes has an extensive history of violence against women, more specifically pregnant women, which he was incarcerated for and ordered to receive therapy. We believe there is enough probable cause to proceed with charges."