CRIME

Police: Officers shot man in Maserati who drove toward them as they tried to serve warrant

An Atlanta area man who was fatally shot by officers after police said he drove a Maserati toward them admitted last year to driving toward another officer and accelerating, according to court records.

Smyrna police officers were trying to serve a felony probation violation warrant from Clayton County on 23-year-old Nicholas Taft Thomas Tuesday afternoon, Smyrna police Sgt. Ed Cason wrote in an email Wednesday.

Three officers from the Cobb County Police Department were there as backup for the Smyrna officers, Cobb County police Sgt. Dana Pierce told The Associated Press. None of the Cobb County officers fired their weapons, Pierce said.

One officer fired on Thomas, Cason wrote. That officer, whose name Cason declined to release, has been placed on administrative leave, per department policy.

Cason told reporters Tuesday that Thomas drove the Maserati toward officers. When asked if Thomas had a weapon, Cason responded by email, "Yes, the vehicle."

Cason also declined to say whether Thomas was driving toward the officer who fired and declined to say where bullets hit the Maserati.

Thomas pleaded guilty last May to charges that included aggravated assault on a peace officer and two counts of attempting to elude officers, according to court records. He was sentenced to serve nearly two months in jail with the remainder of a seven-year sentence to be served on probation.

The indictment does not provide many details but says Thomas accelerated as he drove a vehicle toward a Kennesaw State University police officer in March 2013. It also says he drove above the speed limit and failed to stop when given visual and audible signals by two other uniformed university police officers in marked police vehicles. Kennesaw State is about 25 miles northwest of Atlanta.

The officers in the Tuesday shooting "were in fear for their lives and shot rounds into the vehicle, killing the suspect," Cason told The Marietta Daily Journal.

Witnesses disputed that account.

"They were standing behind the car, opening fire. He wasn't driving towards them," Goodyear customer Brittany Eustache told WSB-TV. Eustache said she watched the shooting from inside the store, just feet away.

"The car was not moving when they began to shoot at him. The car had been stopped. He hit a curb. He couldn't go any further," Eustache told the Atlanta station.

The driver of the Maserati was trying to leave "and then they ended up blocking him in and he couldn't leave, and then they just shot," Sue Brown told CBS 46.

The shooting happened in an unincorporated part of Cobb County in the Vinings area. Cobb County police are investigating the shooting. Vinings is about 11 miles northwest of Atlanta. Clayton County, where Cason said the warrant originated, is in Atlanta's southern suburbs.