Months after Georgia man shot by officers, family wants info

ATLANTA (AP) — More than five months after a man was shot to death in an apartment outside Atlanta by officers serving a warrant targeting someone else, his family wants to know what happened, their lawyer says.

Johnny Bolton, 49, was lying on a couch in the living room of the apartment in Smyrna where he lived when officers serving a no-knock warrant burst through the door early on Dec. 17, attorney Zack Greenamyre said Tuesday.

“We know that Johnny was unarmed and simply stood up in response to a huge crashing noise from the door being taken and then was shot at least twice and died,” Greenamyre said in a telephone interview.

The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the shooting. In a press release on the day Bolton was shot, the GBI said preliminary information indicated that members of a drug task force and sheriff’s office SWAT team deputies executed a drug search warrant at the address about 4:40 a.m.

“During entry into the residence, a SWAT team member discharged his firearm and an occupant of the apartment was struck,” the GBI release says.

The GBI has completed its investigation and turned it over to the Cobb County district attorney’s office on March 16, spokeswoman Nelly Miles said. The district attorney’s office is still investigating, Executive Assistant District Attorney Latonia P. Hines said.

“As in all officer involved shootings, we will be presenting it to a grand jury,” Hines said in an email Tuesday.

The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office is cooperating with the investigation, spokeswoman Saba Long said. Upon taking office in January, Sheriff Craig Owens “called for a review of all internal policies and procedures to ensure the Office follows best practices.”

Very little information has been provided to Bolton’s family, but the warrant has no mention of his name, Greenamyre said. The subject of the investigation, who was suspected of selling drugs, lived at another address where another warrant was served about the same time, Greenamyre said.

The two-bedroom apartment where Bolton lived functioned as a sort of informal boarding house — a woman and her teenage daughter rented one bedroom, another woman rented the other bedroom, and Bolton had been sleeping on the living room couch for several months, Greenamyre said. People who lived there said it was purely residential and no drug sales were happening there, he said.

A search warrant application for the apartment where Bolton lived says the man suspected of selling drugs who was the target of the investigation was confirmed to be at that apartment during a surveillance period in December and also told customers he was there. “During this time surveillance observed multiple short stays which corroborated information on several drug deals that we received information on from the reliable confidential source,” the warrant application said.

But the search warrant application for the second apartment makes clear that that apartment, which is not where Bolton was living, was the home address of the target of the investigation and says officers saw him coming and going from there at all times of the day.

Bolton worked at a car wash near the apartment where he lived and was well-liked by his co-workers and friends, Greenamyre said. The apartment where he lived had previously been used as a music studio, and he liked to record music in his spare time but was shy about performing. He’s survived by his sister, his grown son and daughter, and his granddaughter, and they want to know what happened that night, the lawyer said.

“The goal is we want more information,” Greenamyre said. “We do not know why they claim, or even if they claim, that it was necessary or proper or justified to shoot Johnny Bolton.”

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