Fulton County D.A. Reopens Ariston Waiters Police Killing Case
(APN) UNION CITY, Georgia — The case involving the 2011 shooting death of unarmed nineteen year-old Ariston Waiters in Union City, Georgia, has been reopened by Fulton County District Attorney, Paul Howard.
New evidence has been uncovered; and witnesses who were not interviewed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) or the Grand Jury are now speaking out, once again.
Mr. Waiters was one of the many murdered Black men of Georgia featured in Atlanta Progressive News article on “The Many Eric Garners of Georgia.”
Lt. Chris Elroy was the first supervisor to arrive on the scene when Waiters was shot twice in the back by Officer Luther Lewis in 2011.
“It’s not sat right with me from the first time I arrived on the scene… I think Mr. Waiters died senselessly and his family deserves closure… Everyone had concerns that he [Lewis, the policeman who shot Waiters] had issues,” McElroy said in a WSBTV Channel 2 television news interview.
McElroy and other police officers have expressed concerns about Officer Lewis’s behavior in several other incidents that they say should have gotten Lewis disciplinary action.
For example, in one incident before the Waiters shooting, a sergeant wrote Lewis up after a raid in which Lewis claimed that he saw movement in a house that was empty. It was thought Lewis lied in order to enter the house.
Another time, Lewis thought he saw suspects in the woods that he said shot at him and he returned fire with two or three rounds into the woods. It was never proved that anyone was in the woods and no empty shells were found where someone allegedly shot at Lewis.
However worrisome those incidents, and other incidents, were, they did not appear in Lewis’s official department file; his disciplinary file was empty.
Freda Waiters, Ariston’s mother, has been fighting for justice for her son ever since his untimely death in December 2011.
APN asked Mrs. Waiters what outcome she wanted from the reopening of this case.
“I want to see Luther Lewis tried and convicted for my son’s murder,” she said.
“Chief of Police [Charles] Odum basically admitted to McElroy and another fellow officer that he covered up information that helped Lewis. There were four or five other incidents that Lewis had done and that information was never put in his personnel file. All that information was important to this case. If that information had come out, I feel there would have been an indictment the first time we went to the Grand Jury,” Mrs. Waiters told APN.
Lewis testified to the Grand Jury that Waiters grabbed his gun, and that Lewis feared for his life when he shot Waiters.
Waiters was a one hundred thirty-five pound, unarmed Black teenager; and Lewis was a two hundred fifty pound White, veteran of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq, with a gun.
The GBI report notes the lack of traction marks to indicate any resistance or struggle by Waiters.
The Grand Jury did not indict Lewis on murder or any other charges in May 2012.
In 2013, Mrs. Waiters hired a private investigator, T.J. Ward, a veteran internal affairs officer.
Never underestimate the power of a mother’s love for her only son, or her determination to get at the truth of her son’s death.
Ward knew some the officers in Union City and he talked with them. He found out–what many suspected all along–that there was a cover-up of the evidence in the case.
The demand for justice for Ariston picked up momentum at a Union City Council meeting on Tuesday, June, 16, 2015, where over a dozen angry citizens demanded that Police Chief Odum be fired, indicted, convicted, and jailed for lying and covering up evidence that would have convicted Officer Lewis.
Those present also wanted Officer Lewis arrested, convicted, and put in prison for the murder of Waiters.
“The Grand Jury was more interested in Waiters’s history than his murder… This case went to the United States Attorney’s office. Why did it take Mrs. Waiters and T.J. Ward, a private investigator, to uncover what was in your files to begin with?” Marcus Coleman, Founder, Save Our Selves, asked the Councilmembers.
The Council’s inaction and excuse that they can’t do anything until District Attorney Howard finishes his investigation was not received well.
Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan, Alabama, promised to bring in buses of protesters and put in place economic sanctions in Union City, if police Chief Odum is not fired.
“It is rare for a case to come back up as this case has… there is an obstruction of justice because officers have said that the Chief threatened them with severe punishment, if they told the truth, but they still told the truth,” Faye Coffield, a retired Atlanta police sergeant, former assistant to former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), and former independent candidate for U.S. Congress, told Councilmembers.
“You have enough evidence to know that this Chief has covered it up, he removed the statements they made,” Coffield said.
“I am troubled by the way you are disrespecting your honest, law abiding police officers who told the truth… and you still don’t want to believe them. Odum’s contract is up in July , you can put him on administrative leave, you can notify POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) and tell them you want them to investigate it, or you can hire an investigator. You need to get some courage,” Coffield said.
“There is no way this Chief can serve in this atmosphere where citizens do not trust him… You are waiting on discovery from a criminal justice system that continues to prove to be the biggest producer of racial oppression… You are the Mayor and Council, the decision rests with you… this police chief needs to go now,” Pastor Sedrick Hammer, President of South Fulton Ministerial Coalition, told Councilmembers.
Now that the case has been reopened, there is hope justice will finally prevail for Ariston Waiters.
Lewis resigned from the Department following the Waiters shooting.