The non-fatal police shooting of a black man after a high-speed chase in Newnan, Georgia, on Monday was the 50th officer-involved shooting this year that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been asked to investigate.
Azavious Lavonta Echols, a 25-year-old black man from Woodbury, was shot in the leg by a Newnan police officer after Echols reportedly reached for a handgun in his possession, according to the GBI's preliminary information.
That 50-mark is a slight increase on the number of officer-involved shootings that the GBI investigated at this point the past two years. At this time last year, the GBI had been requested to investigate 36 officer-involved shootings, and at this time in 2018 the GBI had been requested to investigate 45 officer-involved shootings, according to GBI public affairs director Nelly Miles.
In all of 2019, GBI was asked to investigate 84 officer-involved shootings, and in all of 2018 GBI was asked to investigate 94 officer-involved shootings, GBI said.
The 50-mark was reached amid a national reckoning with racism and police violence against black people and came just days after the fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks at a Wendy's parking lot in Atlanta. On Wednesday, the officer who fired the fatal shots at Brooks was charged with felony murder and 10 other counts, and the other officer on scene was charged with aggravated battery and two other counts.
The GBI's role is to provide an independent investigation of the case, which is then turned over to local prosecutors. The numbers include fatal shootings, nonlethal shootings and incidents in which an officer discharged their weapon in someone's direction, Miles said.
Law enforcement agencies in Georgia are not required to ask the GBI to investigate police shootings, so the totals are a slight undercount. Miles said that a "large majority" of law enforcement agencies in the state do so, but some departments still do not.
High-speed chase leads to shooting
The incident began at about 9 p.m. Monday when a motorcyclist, later identified as Echols, led police on a high-speed pursuit exceeding 100 mph on Highway 34 in Newnan, according to the GBI. The motorcyclist was described as a black man with blond dreadlocks wearing a T-shirt, the GBI says.
Another motorist reported that a driver in a motorcycle had turned into the Greison Trail area, and shortly after, officers with Newnan Police Department and Coweta County Sheriff's Office found a black motorcycle abandoned behind a restaurant, the GBI states.
Officers searched the area and found Echols, who matched the driver's description, inside a Bail Bonds 24-7, and it appeared he had forcibly entered the location, GBI states.
Officers began giving him verbal commands, and a Newnan police officer alerted others that Echols had a gun, according to GBI. The officer then fired his handgun at Echols, striking him once in the leg, GBI states.
"At the time of the incident, Echols was in possession of a handgun and was reportedly reaching for it when he was shot," GBI says.
He was transported by EMS to Atlanta Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, and no officers were injured, GBI said.