In metro Atlanta, another cop gets away with killing a Black person

The warehouse in Austell where Officer Max Karneol murdered Vincent Truitt.

About 15 to 20 minutes outside of Atlanta lies the city of Austell, Georgia. Austell is in two metro Atlanta counties — Douglas and Cobb. This article focuses on Cobb’s portion of Austell, as it is where 17-year-old Vincent Truitt, a Black teenager, was murdered by Cobb County Police Officer Max Karneol.

Amid international protests and rightful outrage against the police lynching of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, police around the United States continued to kill Black people with impunity and no sort of accountability. In June last year, Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe killed Rayshard Brooks in a city on fire — literally — raging against white supremacy and police terror. Rolfe murdering Brooks only caused those living in and around Atlanta concerned about police violence to become angrier.

Rolfe was arrested, and activists are still fighting for Rolfe to be sent to prison. Almost exactly a month after Rolfe killed Brooks, still amid international protests against police violence, another police officer murdered a Black person right outside of Atlanta. Max Karneol killed Vincent Truitt near Riverside Parkway in Austell and has since faced no consequences for his actions.

In fact, Karneol’s name wasn’t even released by Cobb County Police and the Cobb District Attorney until after a grand jury decided they would not take any action against Karneol. Of course, justice is not simply sending a police officer to jail. Rather, justice for all the lives stolen too soon from us would abolish the oppressive systems of capitalism and white supremacy. With the abolition of these systems, we can work toward abolishing the police and living in a society where everyone’s needs are met and Black people’s lives are valued. In the meantime, though, it is important to not let neither Vincent Truitt nor the people in power who lie, cheat and steal be forgotten. This is what our struggle for abolition is about.

What happened to Truitt

On July 13, 2020, an unidentified Cobb County Police officer shoots Vincent Truitt twice in the back as Truitt is running away. As police officers stand over Truitt, they handcuff the teenager bleeding out on the ground and groaning in pain. Truitt can be heard asking the officer who ended up killing him, “Why did you shoot me? I’m dying.” Truitt dies at Grady Hospital the next day from his injuries. 

What the police say happened

When the news gets out that Truitt was killed, the Cobb County Police Department in conjunction with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation releases a press statement saying that a vehicle with three males inside was stolen and was seen near Riverside Parkway.

CCPD and the GBI say that CCPD officers tried to pull over the vehicle during a traffic stop, but the driver of the car escaped got away in the car. Very soon, Cobb police were chasing the vehicle, attempting to arrest whoever was driving the car and everyone else inside of it.

Reaching a dead end near a building on Riverside Parkway, the people inside the alleged stolen vehicle stopped the car, exited it and tried to run away. Cobb police caught two of the people in the car but the third, who turned out to be Truitt, was still running away.

Suddenly, a Cobb officer caught up to Truitt and as far as the media knew the cop shot Truitt twice in the back as Truitt had his back turned to the cop. Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox announced to the media that the officer shot Truitt because the officer spotted Truitt with some sort of weapon — Cox switched between saying “weapon” and “gun” multiple times in his media appearances.

Cox and CCPD never strayed from the narrative that Truitt had a gun and thus presented a danger to the officer. In the approximately seven months that Truitt’s case was open, Cobb PD refused to release the name of the police officer who killed Truitt. They also refused to publicly release the officer’s body cam footage and other videos the police had of Truitt. All the public knew about the officer at the time was that he was put on administrative leave while the GBI investigated the killing.

CCPD, the GBI and then-District Attorney Joyette Holmes made sure to keep the footage of Truitt’s killing among themselves. While Truitt’s family and family attorneys got to see the video, they begged, pleaded and rallied for Cobb officials and the GBI to release the video of Truitt’s killing. Cobb police, the DA and the GBI refused. 

Truitt family takes action

Truitt’s family and attorneys were relentless in demanding Cobb officials release the footage of Truitt being killed to the public. They also demanded to know the name of the cop who killed Truitt. In November 2020, family and attorneys of Truitt rallied in Marietta Square to pressure those in power to release the tape and to also reveal the name of the cop who killed Truitt. People associated with Truitt also called for Cox to resign, saying he was not being transparent with Truitt’s case.

Family and attorneys described the video that was not being released at the time. They said that Truitt did not point the alleged weapon he had in his hand at the police. Also, they maintain that Truitt did not even turn towards the officer who killed him. Truitt was a passenger in the car, slid out to exit the car and ran away.

Truitt family attorney Gerald Griggs also said that in meetings with DA Holmes and GBI Director Vic Reynolds, both of them said that Truitt could not be seen with a gun in his hand in the video. Truitt’s family endured months of anguish, exacerbated by Cobb officials being as non-transparent as they could. But despite that, Truitt’s family continued to bring his story to the public and even an international audience.

In early February of this year, Truitt’s family presented in front of an international commission investigating the epidemic of police violence against Black people in the United States. The council featured notable international scholars and experts, such as Mireille Fanon-Mendès France, the daughter of Frantz Fanon. 

The commission recently released their report, saying police violence against Black people in the US is a crime against humanity and calls for the United Nations and International Criminal Court to investigate.

In their presentation to the international commission as well as demonstrations had in and around Atlanta, Truitt’s family spoke of the complex and bright teenager Vincent Truitt was. He was an entrepreneur, loved basketball and was about to receive his driver’s license. He was loved.

One of Truitt’s family attorneys said that a gun was found near Truitt and he may have even held it, but holding the gun and turning to point the gun at the officer are two different things.

Truitt never pointed the gun at the officer.

Early February was also when Truitt’s family and attorney announced in a press conference that they were suing the Cobb County Police and government $50 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.

They criticized newly-elected Cobb DA Flynn Broady, a Democrat, who promised that he would release the video of Truitt’s killing to the public upon being elected. Broady did not keep his word, despite telling the press otherwise.

Broady then allegedly switched his position and said that once a grand jury decides what to do with the officer who killed Truitt, then he will perhaps release the tape to the public, according to a family attorney. 

A family attorney also said that Broady implied he would present murder charges to a grand jury but Broady presented no charges to the jury. Instead, he simply presented what happened on that summer night.

To this day, Truitt’s family and attorneys continue to host rallies in honor of Truitt.

No action taken, tapes, name finally released

Around late February of this year, DA Broady announced to the public that after convening a grand jury, the jury decided to take no action against the police officer who murdered Truitt.

The jury said that the officer was within his legal right to shoot Truitt. Broady said he would not pursue any further action against the officer.

This announcement was also significant because finally, after nearly seven months, Cobb County police and the DA’s office finally decided to publicly release the footage of Truitt being killed along with the officer who killed him — Max H. Karneol. County officials did not listen to any of the demands of Truitt’s family and were not transparent.

The DA office also did not allow Truitt’s family and attorneys into the press conference where they were announcing the results of the grand jury. Police barred them from entering, which was a fact that the DA’s office confirmed, saying that only the press was allowed.

After Broady justified the murder of Truitt, he then said that as a Black man, it hurts to see his fellow people get gunned down. Broady even had the audacity to quote Malcolm X, using Malcolm’s words to defend his position as district attorney and look at both sides of the situation (from the victim’s perspective and the perspective of the police). Another important point to make about Broady is that while running for Cobb DA he said that law enforcement and lawyers acted too quickly to arrest Rolfe, who murdered Brooks. This shows you which side Broady is on, despite running as a progressive district attorney who claims to believe in restorative justice.

After late February’s announcement, the press and county officials quickly moved on from Truitt’s case.

The footage

As stated earlier, in late February after the grand jury decided to take no action against Truitt, Cobb County officials released the body cam footage, the name of the cop who murdered Truitt and most other documents and footage about the tape could be accessed through open records requests.

The video that Cobb police showed to the public shows the car chase that occurred that night along with Karneol chasing after Truitt. What was clear in the video was that Karneol shot Truitt twice in the back as he ran away. What was also clear was that Karneol handcuffed Truitt as he was bleeding to death on the ground

What was murky was the fact that the video showed something in Truitt’s hand as he ran away, but it was too dark to clearly see what it was. When Karneol did shoot Truitt, there was a gun near Truitt’s body. What was not shown to the public through the police or DA were subsequent videos of Karneol interacting with his colleagues and with the GBI.

One video shows Karneol interacting with the first Black sheriff of Cobb County Craig Owens. Owens is seen telling Karneol “good job” and to “relax” after Karneol says that Truitt pulled a gun on him. Karneol also said he wasn’t sure if Truitt got any shots out of the gun.

Another video from Karneol’s body cam footage shows him saying that he wasn’t sure what exactly Truitt was trying to with the gun he had. All Karneol knew was that he had a gun. Karneol’s colleague assures him that he is in the right because Truitt had a gun.

Perhaps most damning is the video in which Karneol flat out tells the GBI that he does not recall Truitt ever pointing the gun at him. Karneol said he had never seen the muzzle of Truitt’s gun. Within this same video, as Truitt’s blood is splattered on the ground behind them, Cobb police officers joked about how they needed to put mousse in their hair and look good for when the press and cameras show up. 

At present

Currently, Truitt’s family is still fighting to have Karneol arrested and sent to prison for the rest of his life. Along with the lawsuit against the county, Truitt’s family also continue to hold demonstrations. The family and attorneys are trying to get in contact with the Georgia Attorney General hoping to file federal civil rights violation charges against CCPD and Karneol.

The family has not given up despite the hardships that county leadership has put them through. Georgia has no statute of limitations for murder, meaning that Karneol can still be charged and tried for murder and sent to prison. Karneol was taken off administrative leave and is back to working as a Cobb County police officer.

By Marvel Jones

About Community Movement Builders (159 Articles)
Community Movement Builders (CMB) is a member-based collective of black people dedicated to being a force for creating sustainable self-determining communities through cooperative economic advancement and collective community organizing. Our mission is rooted in Black love and equity. Grassroots Thinking is our newsletter/community blog about our work and movement activity

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