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Cops not charged in fatal shooting

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A grand jury cleared three Clayton County police officers in a fatal, prostitution-sting shooting.

The grand jury heard testimony and reviewed evidence -- including a patrol car's dashboard video of the March 2007 death -- for about four hours, before returning a no-bill, rejecting all possible charges, from murder to reckless conduct.

"They did not find them guilty," said Keith Martin, an attorney representing one of the officers. "They did not find any probable cause to charge them with anything, whatsoever."

The officers, Jimmy Black, Jeff Gant, and Kevin Roberts, all went home on Wednesday night. Two of the officers who faced possible murder charges, Black and Gant, spoke to reporters after the grand jury released its findings.

"I want to say, 'thank you,' to everybody who realized the truth," said Gant.

"Thank you, to the citizens of Clayton County," said Black.

The officers were working a prostitution-sting operation on Old Dixie Boulevard the night of March 29, when they shot Robert Harvest Turman to death as he tried to drive away. According to police, Turman, 23, offered an undercover female officer $20 for a sex act and then attempted to run the arresting officers over with his pickup truck.

Turman didn't have a gun, at the time, but the gray Nissan was considered a deadly weapon, according to police, and the 23-year-old allegedly ignored officers' orders and revved his engine.

On the dead man's body, law enforcement officials found 31 bags of crack cocaine, seven bags of powdered cocaine, six bags of marijuana, one "cookie" of crack cocaine and 16 ecstasy pills, all packaged to sell.

The police department cleared the officers, reporting that they followed policy, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation looked at the incident and then turned all the evidence over to the district attorney.

The District Attorney's office said the video tape, showing the shooting, conflicted with the officer's reports. It was, officially, called a "discrepancy."

In May, more than a year after Turman's death, prosecutors wrote up homicide indictments, saying the shooting may not have been justified and a grand jury should see the evidence.

The statement drew the attention of the Rev. Al Sharpton, who spoke in Clayton County in June, called for justice in the officer-involved shooting, and met with District Attorney Jewel Scott to discuss the case.

When the indictments were being written up, attorneys' for the three officers said the video, put in the context of police work, would show the officers did their job.

"I think in any situation, let alone the use of deadly force, there's always additional considerations that have to be explained to those who aren't trained in law enforcement," said Grady Dukes, a Southern States Police Benevolent Association attorney. "Once the entire situation is explained to them, we're hopeful that the grand jury will see fit to issue a 'no-bill.'"

After the grand jury came back with the no-bill, Dukes praised the grand jury for "looking at a lot of evidence" and asking "a lot of questions."

The district attorney, who is in a run-off race for re-election to her second term, could not be reached for comment.

Jeff Turner, chief of the Clayton County Police, said the department was happy to have the officers cleared. "We're elated to hear the findings of the grand jury," Turner said. "The tragedy, out of all this, is that a young man lost his life, and our hearts and prayers will continue to go out to the Turman family."