Kroger Shooting: One Year Later | News
A year ago, on December 21, 2012, Sammie "Junebug" Davis, Jr., was shot and killed outside the Kroger on Pio Nono Ave. in Macon by Macon Police Officer Clayton Sutton.
"The nature of his departure, the way it happened, the shockingness of it, that still leaves a wound," says Davis' brother-in-law, Leo Glover-Muhammad.
The shooting happened in the middle of the afternoon on a busy day at grocery store before Christmas. Davis was sitting outside eating chips and drinking soda, which is what his family says he we do every day.
Police were called to the Kroger after getting a 911 call from a elderly woman who says Davis asked her for money, which frightened her.
After Officer Sutton approached, there was an alleged scuffle, and Sutton shot Davis 3 times in the chest.
Police initially told reporters Sutton was there to serve a warrant, but later said that wasn't true.
It wasn't until months later that police released a picture of Sutton with a gash on his neck. No weapon was ever found on Davis.
The shooting and investigation led to protests as the GBI conducted an investigation into the case.
In March, District Attorney David Cooke announced there would be no criminal charges filed against Sutton, arguing the evidence showed he "reasonable feared for his life."
In April, the Shooting Review Board also backed Sutton, clearing him in the Macon Police internal investigation.
This week, the U.S. Attorney's office weighed in, also backing Sutton, and finding there were no civil rights violations during the incident.
Mental Health Training
But the shooting raised questions about how police officers treat those with mental illness. The GBI found that Davis suffered from schizophrenia and hadn't been taking his medication.
His sister, Cheryl, had said she'd warned Davis about going to Kroger because she worried the wrong person might misunderstand him.
Middle Georgia State College sociology professor Kathleen Grant says access to mental health resources is a problem across the board, not just for police.
No one keeps track of how often police shootings are cause by mental health problems. But last year, Maine newspaper found that most of the people fatally shot by police in that state were mentally ill.
Bibb County Sheriff David Davis says his department uses technology that can log past offenders' mental history, and also plans to re-emphasize Crisis Intervention Training, which including how to deal with people with mental illness.
Davis also says he plans on getting all patrol officers tasers in the new law enforcement. He says tasers can help prevent lethal force from being used.
Sheriff Davis also says the Davis shooting provided a lesson for law enforcement in how to handle community relations during high-profile shootings, and says it's important to keep the public informed of how investigations are progressing.
"It's incumbent on us in the law enforcement community when something like that happens is to come to the community and say this is what we have so far, keeping the community informed of what we have," says Davis.
As for Sutton's future on the force, Davis says all ex-Macon Police officers will have spots in the new department.
But he says Sutton will moved off of street duty for the forseeable future.
He says that's common practice anytime an officer has been involved in a shooting.
Follow 13WMAZ's Tom George on Twitter @thetomgeorge