U.S. attorney: No civil rights violations in fatal Kroger shooting

Staff reportDecember 17, 2013 

Nearly a year after a Macon police officer shot Sammie “Junebug” Davis Jr. to death, the U.S. Attorney announced Tuesday there was not enough evidence to warrant a prosecution for civil rights violations.

Davis, 49, was shot three times by officer Clayton Sutton outside the Pio Nono Avenue Kroger supermarket Dec. 21, 2012. Sutton was treated at the scene for gashes to his neck that he sustained after Davis lunged at him outside the store.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s investigation into Davis’ death focused on the federal criminal civil rights statute that prohibits certain types of official misconduct, according to a news release from the office.

U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said the Justice Department and his office “determined that the evidence in this case is insufficient to meet the rigorous requirements of a federal criminal civil rights prosecution.”

Officials looked at “voluminous materials” in their investigation, Moore’s statement said.

“I have spoken with the Davis family about this decision, and while I know that their hearts remain heavy, I appreciate their cooperation during this investigation,” he said.

Cheryl Davis, Sammie’s sister, cried when reached by phone Tuesday. She said she has been suffering from chest pains and anxiety since hearing the news about the investigation.

“I knew what he was going to say, but I didn’t want to hear it,” she said, referring to Moore.

“I’m devastated,” she said. “There seems to be no recourse for us, for the life that was taken.”

Al Tillman, a community activist and incoming Macon-Bibb County Commission member, expressed his sympathy for Davis’ family and noted that the U.S. Attorney’s Office was “the last line of defense” for the family.

“It’s unfortunate that the family has to deal with this type of tragedy, knowing that their loved one was unarmed,” he said.

Too many black men are shot and killed by law enforcement officers across the country, he said, “with not a lot of repercussion.”

There need to be changes -- including changes in police training and tactics -- “to keep this from ever happening again in this community,” Tillman said.

The finding by the U.S. Attorney’s Office was the latest in a series of reports in the case.

In March, following a nearly three-month criminal investigation by police and the GBI, District Attorney David Cooke ruled Sutton’s shooting of Davis justified.

According to a police Internal Affairs file obtained by The Telegraph in June, Sutton received written reprimand signed in early May by then-interim Chief Mike Carswell.

Also, a shooting review board composed of local residents, Macon officers and law enforcement officers from outside Macon recommended the reprimand April 17 after determining Sutton made a minor policy violation in not notifying dispatchers when he arrived at Kroger.

The shooting review board found Sutton didn’t violate any policies in his encounter with Davis.

Sutton, who was a Precinct 3 patrol officer at the time of the shooting, was placed on administrative leave until the shooting review board convened. He was then assigned to the department’s property investigations division, but he was not promoted to investigator. The written reprimand listed him being assigned to the pawn unit.

Cheryl Davis said she mentioned the idea of a civil lawsuit to Moore when they talked, but the last lawyer pursuing leads and interviewing witnesses on the family’s behalf pulled out a few weeks ago.

“He was saying he could not profit from the case,” she said.

Meanwhile, the anniversary of her brother’s death is Saturday, she said, but the family has no immediate plans for the day.

“Marches, rallies, they won’t do anything,” she said. “Nobody in Macon cares.”

She said a Facebook comment posted on the “Justice For Sammie ‘Junebug’ Davis Jr.” page reflects popular opinion in the city. One commenter said Sutton was just doing his job and that Sammie deserved to die, she said.

“That’s not true,” she said. “I don’t believe Clay Sutton was in fear of his life.”

Cheryl Davis struggled to speak while crying.

“I don’t understand how my brother can be dead and nothing is getting done,” she said.

Writer Andres Lopez contributed to this report.

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