Friend talks about Fulton County Sheriff’s Office deputy shot, killed on street

$30K reward for information helping to lead to an arrest in the death of Deputy James Thomas
Fulton County deputy shot, killed on Bolton Road, shooter still on the loose
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 6:43 AM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A Fulton County Sheriff’s Office deputy was shot and killed early Thursday morning on Bolton Road near James Jackson Parkway in northwest Atlanta. He was identified early Friday morning. Additionally, the reward was increased to $30,000 for information leading to the arrest of the shooter or shooters.

“Deputy James Thomas, who joined the agency in August of this year, was assigned to Grady Detention. He was recruited to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office from the Milledgeville Police Department, because of his dedication to the law enforcement profession, and his remarkable work ethic. He will be truly missed,” a news release stated.

During a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Fulton County Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat did not identify the 24-year-old deputy from Mississippi but described him as the “life of the party” and said the deceased deputy had a “good spirit.” The sheriff said he had personally recruited the deputy from another agency south of Atlanta. The deputy was assigned to Grady Hospital detention unit.

Thomas’ friend Keith Bankston said, “We’re really shocked because he was a deputy who worked with the inmates at the hospital, and we don’t know if it could have been related to that or a simple car accident with road rage so we’re just hoping and praying for answers for his family...He was a friendly, bubbly person who always told jokes who was always sassy and always had a smart comeback with the jokes and so a lot of young people looked up to him because he always wanted to be in law enforcement his whole life.”

“It’s a sad day for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office,” Labat said. “Our hearts and our prayers go out to him and his family and his friends and certainly our work family.”

Investigators said the 24-year-old deputy was also involved in a crash with another vehicle. It’s unclear whether he was shot before or after the accident.

“We do know that there was another vehicle. There was a van involved. The van observed the victim’s vehicle driving erratically on Bolton Road when they went to pass that vehicle is when they believe they heard gunfire and those two vehicles did collide at that point. So that individual has come forward and they are cooperating with us and at this point we don’t have any evidence to suggest that they’re involved in the actual shooting,” Atlanta Police Major Peter Malecki said.

Police are asking anyone in the area who may have seen anything, no matter how small it might seem, to get in contact with them.

Police also said that the deputy was on duty the night before the shooting but they did not know anything about his actions between the time he got off duty and the time he was shot. The shooting happened shortly before 4:30 a.m.

“Right now, we do not know if the shooter was a pedestrian on foot or if he was perhaps in another vehicle. So, any information at all if somebody heard gunfire, if they saw anything that looked out of place or suspicious around 4:30 in the morning on Bolton Road around Peyton or James Jackson we would ask that they provide that information,” Malecki said.

A $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his killer is being offered by Crime Stoppers.

Atlanta News First is working to gather more information about this incident. Check back for updates.