Although the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office has closed the case of the shooting of Sammie “Junebug” Davis Jr. by a police officer, a segment of the community was still demanding justice Friday.
Former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis, City Councilman Henry Gibson and Davis’ sister Cheryl are requesting a probe by the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to determine whether Sammie Davis’ rights were violated during his encounter with Macon police officer Clayton Sutton.
A little later, Macon resident Anthony Harris, who has protested the ruling by picketing City Hall and through social media, attempted to disrupt the opening festivities of the Cherry Blossom Festival at Central City Park during Macon Mayor Robert Reichert’s remarks before police led Harris away.
Later in the afternoon, about 40 people marched from Tattnall Square Park to City Hall, singing civil rights-era songs along the way before staging a protest in front of the building.
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At the morning news conference, in front of the Bibb County Courthouse, Cheryl Davis said she disagreed with District Attorney David Cooke’s ruling that the fatal shooting was justified.
Leo Glover Muhammad, Davis’ brother-in-law, said he was at Davis’ house when the district attorney visited to share news of his decision.
“We disagreed with what he said from the start,” Muhammad said.
Davis admitted she hasn’t read the GBI report, but said there are witnesses who saw more than the woman whose car was damaged when Sutton fell on it after he shot her brother.
Ellis, who said he has read the report, alleges the GBI’s investigation of the Dec. 21, 2012, incident at the Pio Nono Avenue Kroger contains inconsistencies.
He said it’s troubling that one witness told police she saw Sutton talking with Sammie Davis, with no fighting or struggle, and after looking away heard gunshots.
Ellis and Gibson also questioned why Sutton felt the need to shoot Davis after he had pushed himself away from Davis.
“The immediate danger disappeared,” said Gibson, a retired police officer. “He had Mace. As a police officer, if you’re outmanned, it still doesn’t justify you using lethal force with a gun. You have to fight for your life. You can’t just take a life.”
Gibson said he’s had questions about the investigation since the beginning when police released inaccurate information.
A grand jury should have been given the opportunity to consider at least an involuntary manslaughter charge before the case was ruled justified, he said.
Gibson also questioned why Sutton didn’t turn on his patrol car camera sooner or call for back up when he saw Davis’ size.
Cherry Blossom protest
At Central City Park, Harris held up a sign and shouted during Reichert’s opening remarks during Cherry Blossom Festival opening ceremonies.
“Why aren’t you firing Clayton Sutton? Why aren’t you firing Chief Burns?” Harris yelled in front of the stage.
Reichert repeatedly asked to address Harris later, but he screamed, “I want to speak now, as a citizen.”
The mayor continued to introduce dignitaries from France and Russia as police led away Harris, who was dressed in a pink jacket with brightly colored animals.
Harris, 43, was taken to the Bibb County jail. He was released after 7 p.m. Friday evening after posting a $650 bond on the charge of disrupting a lawful public meeting or gathering.
Macon resident Daryl Jackson organized a community march to City Hall in the late afternoon, joined by Macon City Councilman Henry Ficklin and Lonnie Miley. About 40 marchers sang civil rights-era protest songs along the way to City Hall, where they met up with about 35 to 40 more people, including Councilman Virgil Watkins.
Amid chants of “No justice, no peace!” and those calling out various public officials, including Reichert, Cooke and Macon Police Chief Mike Burns, several people shouted their displeasure over how the case was investigated.
Jackson said he organized the march “to bring light to injustice by law enforcement” in Macon and said Cooke should have sent the case to a grand jury.
Miley said he knew Sammie Davis and his family and said he thinks Cooke has put too much emphasis on Davis’ mental health issues.
“There are too many officers with mental health issues,” Miley said. “They need to look at (Sutton’s) mental health and whether he should be on the force.”
Miley said he and Gibson are working on something related to the incident to present to Macon City Council, but didn’t get into specifics as to what that may be.
Telegraph writer Liz Fabian contributed to this report.