A Toombs County Grand Jury has cleared Georgia State Patrol Trooper Wade Manning, who was accused of misusing force in a January 9 incident in Lyons that resulted in the injury of a suspect.
According to Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tripp Fitzner, a Grand Jury hearing is standard procedure in any event where officers use force in which individuals are injured. The hearing provides an opportunity for witnesses to present the Grand Jury with information so that it may be determined whether a trial is necessary.
At the September 22 hearing, the Grand Jury determined that Trooper Manning’s ac- continued from page
tions were reasonable under the circumstances because of the knowledge he had available to him at the time he shot and wounded the suspect. Forensic investigations determined that the bullet that wounded the suspect came from Manning’s weapon.
The Grand Jury reviewed footage from the trooper’s car and camera footage and photos of the scene taken by GBI agents. Six witnesses, including Lyons Police Department (LPD) Sergeant James Morrison, LPD Officer Ben Glosson, Department of Natural Resources Game Warden Jordan Usher, Toombs County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michelle Meeks, Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Special Agent Skyler Reese, and GBI Special Agent Eugene Howard, also shared their testimonies of the event. All of the witnesses responded to the event, after receiving a report of shots being fired. Eyewitness Accounts
Sergeant Morrison testified that shots were reported at 12:11 p.m. and came from the CKT Trailer Park, located at 254 East Clifton Avenue in Lyons, and/or a pickup truck. continued from page
Upon arriving at the scene, Morrison noticed a vehicle, identified as the truck from which the shots originated, located across the road from the trailer park. The vehicle traveled through several yards in the trailer park, at which time Glosson joined the chase. Suspect Charles Tavaris James, 32, jumped out of the vehicle and continued his escape on foot.
The vehicle then began to approach Morrison’s patrol car where more shots were heard. Glosson radioed to dispatch that he was keeping his distance in the pursuit to prevent being shot. As Glosson distanced, Trooper Manning then took the lead in the pursuit, which continued to the area of South 11th Street, where the driver of the vehicle, Taliyah Williams, 17, jumped out of the vehicle, was shot, and fell to the ground, allowing officers to apprehend her. Upon the female suspect’s exit from the vehicle, Glosson stated he saw Trooper Manning open the door of his patrol car approximately 20 to 25 yards from Williams.
Williams received a gunshot wound to the knee area, and no weapon was found on her person. She had a previous gunshot injury to her hip which occurred in what was determined to be a gang-related shooting on the same day as the chase. There was no one else in the vehicle at the time she fled on foot, and she claimed that she had caught a ride with a friend, who stopped at the CKT Trailer Park. She said the pair were fired upon in the area of the trailer park and she was scared to stop the vehicle.
Game Warden Usher arrived to the scene once Williams was already handcuffed, and assisted Manning in the search for a firearm, which was not located. He spoke with a neighbor at the scene who shared that her trailer had been shot, and a defect was found in the home, as the trailer appeared to have been grazed by a bullet.
Deputy Meeks arrived on scene after the pursuit had been concluded, and met with Morrison, who had James in custody. Meeks was told that James had an empty holster on his person, and found a Hi-Point loaded firearm within the area. She also discovered what appeared to be a crash site near the trailer park where the suspects apparently crashed into a tree, with a .223 casing, which is commonly used in an AR15, and several 9mm casings in the road nearby.
GBI Special Agents Reese and Howard probed the scene following the incident. Agent Howard shared that he had learned James was known for robbing drug dealers, and that he and Williams were in a romantic relationship. He said that while interviewing Williams on January 10, she told him that she and James were at the trailer park the previous night when some Blood gang members shot at her car, causing the pair to hit a tree when they tried to get away. James had just freed the vehicle when the pair saw law enforcement, at which time he fled on foot. Williams claimed the Hi-Point gun and told Howard she had tried to get rid of it during the incident because she did not want police to find it.
Williams also informed Howard that she had a phone and wallet in her hand when she exited the vehicle, which she thought Trooper Manning may have believed was a gun.
Agent Reese studied several physical elements of the scene, which evidenced that Trooper Manning had shot 5 times and that Williams’ vehicle had defects on it that came from a rifle rather than a handgun. Inside of the suspect vehicle, there was a firearm magazine that appeared to be taped together, and a bullet was found in the driver floorboard.
As the agents continued to investigate the incident, several more details were learned and many were reaffirmed. The agents became aware that James’ vehicle had been shot with a weapon prior to the pursuit at the trailer park, and that all details within that investigation affirmed that the incident was gang related.
Agent Reese studied Trooper Manning’s 21-year history as a GSP Trooper, which showed he had no prior use of force incidents and that all related training was up-to-date. He had nothing negative in his file, and even had several letters of commendation from leadership.
Trooper Manning’s Testimony
Trooper Manning was asked to take the stand by Grand Jury members and spoke of his perspective of the incident. He told the jury that he was working in the area of Lyons a little after midnight on January 9 when he responded to a call for assistance because of a pursuit and shots fired at LPD. He said he responded and took the lead on the pursuit until Williams ran off the road on a sharp curve, which led her to exit the vehicle. As Williams got out of her vehicle, Manning reported he saw a black object in her hand, which he believed to be a firearm, prompting him to shoot at her. He said he had not heard the original dispatch call, but knew officers had been reporting shots fired over the radio when he joined the pursuit.
District Attorney Fitzner commented on the hearing and its results. “I let them (the Grand Jury) hear what I thought was as complete of a picture of what happened as could possibly be provided, and they made a decision based on that. Trooper Manning went on the stand when requested, and was able to answer questions like all of the other witnesses. The matter was solved and no further charges will be sought against Trooper Manning.”