Why the GBI Investigates Police Shootings

10:38 PM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
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When officers are involved in shootings, local police departments and sheriff's offices often ask the GBI to investigate.

It's not required but common, according to retired Special Agent in Charge for the Perry GBI office, Gary Rothwell. He's now a private investigator.

The 31-year veteran of the agency explained why the GBI gets involved and how their investigations work.

Rothwell says he worked hundreds of officer involved shooting cases during his three decades with the GBI.

He said Tuesday, local police agencies often ask for that service for two reasons. Smaller agencies may not have the resources. Larger departments have the capability, but often want to ensure there's no appearance of favoritism toward their officers.

Two recent Central Georgia investigations fall under the second category.

Macon Police asked the GBI to conduct an independent review of the death of Sammy Davis Junior, shot by a police officer in a Kroger parking lot.

Warner Robins Police asked the agency to investigate the killing of Anthony Rawls, who died Sunday after officers allegedly shot him on his front porch.

Rothwell says once the GBI is asked to take over the case, they handle it like any other crime scene. They collect evidence and talk to all the witnesses, trying to answer one question.

Rothwell said, "The GBI is investigating whether a criminal act occurred on the part of an officer or other parties involved. It is not an internal affairs investigation of any policy violation."

The GBI compiles their findings and turns them over to the district attorney.

Rothwell said, "We present the facts to the DA and try to be an independent collector of those facts. At times, were asked for our opinion. We don't typically state that publicly, but if were requested by the DA to offer an opinion, we will do so."

The most recent study on police use of deadly force was released in 2010 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

It suggested that most police killings would be considered justified if officers were "defending themselves or others from the threat of death or serious injury".

In about 80-percent of the cases, the study found suspects used a weapon to threaten or assault officers.

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