Prosecutor Mark Post ramped up his criticism of District Attorney Julia Slater on Thursday, declaring it "inexcusable" that she has taken no action a year after a Columbus police officer fatally shot a bank robber and a man he had apparently carjacked.
Post, who is running for Slater's job this November, accused the district attorney of unnecessarily dragging her feet and wasting taxpayer dollars, noting Officer Vincent Lockhart Jr. has been on paid leave throughout the investigation.
"A good district attorney must be willing to put in the work that is required to properly evaluate a case in a timely manner, and then that district attorney must be willing to make a decision," Post said at a news conference inside the Government Center. "My opponent should act on that case, and she should act now."
Slater said she was "alarmed" that a candidate for district attorney "would make a bold statement about a timeline in a case where he does not have actual knowledge of the case file."
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"I can assure you that I have been working diligently on this matter and it will be resolved as soon as possible," Slater said in a prepared statement.
Slater has been weighing whether to pursue charges against Lockhart for the split-second decision he made Sept. 6, 2011, while chasing a man accused of robbing the MEA Federal Credit Union on Macon Road.
The suspect, Alrahiem Tolbert, fled to a nearby residence on Gardenia Street and climbed into the work truck of Tony Carr, a 34-year-old Fort Benning fire inspector who had come home at lunch to let his dog out.
It's unclear how Carr ended up in the passenger seat of the vehicle, but authorities have said Tolbert tried to back over the officer and drive away, prompting Lockhart to open fire.
Carr was shot twice in the torso and later died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Tolbert was shot in the head and found dead in the pickup.
The incident prompted a full-scale inquiry, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation forwarded a case report to Slater's office on Nov. 21, 2011, said Wayne Smith, the special agent in charge of the GBI's Columbus office.
Because he may have to act on the case if elected, Post said it would be "inappropriate" to say what the outcome should be. But from what he knows about the case, Post said he's seen "nothing to indicate to me that any police officer would have done anything different in that situation.
"I've heard of nothing that says Officer Vincent Lockhart Jr. acted inappropriately," Post said. "The standard is what a reasonable officer would have done in that situation. You can't judge it in hindsight."
Post said he doesn't consider the case complex.
"As a general rule, indictments in a non-complex case should occur within six months of receiving the police investigative file," he said.
Slater, however, said that Post "cannot begin to grasp the magnitude" of her task because the extent of his knowledge has come from media accounts.
Post worked as a prosecutor here from 1993 to 2008 and served as chief assistant to former District Attorney Gray Conger, whom Slater unseated in 2008.
He currently works as an assistant district attorney in the Cuthbert, Ga.-based Pataula Judicial Circuit.
In criticizing Slater, Post joined a growing number of voices demanding answers in Carr's death. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recently held its own news conference calling on a resolution to the case.
"I strongly suspect that as soon as we get done here that there will be movement in that case," Post said.
Carr's father, Tony Carr Sr., said the most important thing to him is for his son to be publicly exonerated from involvement in the robbery that prompted the shootings.
Authorities initially had said the younger Carr appeared to be an accomplice of Tolbert's.
"What I really believe is they are dragging it on because they do not want to have to say that this officer was wrong because that's going to be a reflection on the whole police department," Tony Carr Sr. said in a telephone interview Thursday, adding he thought it was unfortunate his son's death was being politicized. "If they officially say that, my opinion is they're scared they're going to be faced with a lawsuit."
The elder Carr said his family was privately informed by investigators that his son was "cleared" from any culpability in the robbery.
Asked to confirm that exchange, Smith of the GBI said it would be inappropriate to comment with Slater's decision still pending.
While he can't speak for the rest of his family, Tony Carr Sr. said he doesn't plan to file any lawsuits -- that won't bring his son back. And he doesn't harbor any resentment toward Lockhart.
"I look at it like a man out there trying to make a living, doing a job to try to make a difference in the community," he said. "Do I think he should have handled it better, in a different way? Yes, but I do understand, to some degree, the use of force and use of force policy.
"I don't believe that he purposefully or maliciously intended to do anything wrong. He made a split-second decision, and the split-second decision that he made was the wrong decision -- but I don't know what was going on in his head at the time."