On Dec. 17, 49-year-old Johnny Lorenzo Bolton was shot dead in an apartment in Smyrna, Ga., by a member of a the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team while the team was executing a no-knock drug warrant. Bolton’s name was not listed on that warrant or any other warrant related to the case. According to an attorney representing Bolton’s family, Bolton had been sleeping on a couch when the SWAT team burst in and he was shot twice in the chest the second he stood up. Six months later, almost no details regarding the shooting have been released.
“During entry into the residence, a SWAT team member discharged his firearm and an occupant of the apartment was struck,” a news release revealed, the Associated Press reports. That’s it—that’s virtually the only detail associated with the shooting that has been released by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which said it turned over its investigative file to the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office on March 16.
The family’s attorney paints a much broader picture.
The two-bedroom apartment where Bolton lived served as an unofficial boarding house, according to Zack Greenamyre, one of the family’s lawyers. A woman and her teenage daughter lived in one bedroom, another woman rented the other bedroom, and Bolton slept on a couch in the living room, Greenamyre said.
As part of an investigation targeting a suspected drug dealer, police served two warrants at roughly the same time: one at a townhouse where the suspected dealer lived and the second at the apartment where Bolton lived, which police said was paid for by the alleged dealer. The officer who provided sworn statements for both warrant applications said they were based on information from a confidential law enforcement source and surveillance. The officer said the confidential informant bought cocaine at the apartment in September and that drug sales continued there in December.
The officer asked for a “no-knock” warrant, which allows police to enter without announcing themselves. He cited the criminal histories of people who were known to associate with the suspected dealer at the apartment and previous reports of guns seen there.
Greenamyre said that the warrant was obtained through false and outdated information. (Sound familiar?) He also said that witnesses told him Bolton was lying on the couch with his eyes closed and that he was shot after he stood up in response to the noise made by the SWAT team bursting through the door to the apartment. They also said officers handcuffed Bolton as he lay on the floor shot instead of immediately providing first aid.
“The limited information available to the family now does not make this look like a justified shooting,” a letter written by attorneys along with a draft lawsuit said.
In response to that letter and lawsuit, an attorney for Cobb County said investigators are looking into the claims made by Bolton’s representatives, but they “believe there are several material inaccuracies.” But officials also declined to release any “documents detailing the shooting, citing an exemption in the state’s open records law for material related to an ongoing investigation,” AP reports.
Ultimately, there’s only one question that matters: What reason did the officer have to shoot Bolton?
In Taylor’s case, officers justified firing a hail of bullets into an apartment by saying they were returning fire after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot first—which he said he only did because he had no idea who was breaking in.
So, did the cop even have that flimsy excuse for shooting Bolton? Was Bolton armed and did he fire at the cops first? The fact that the GBI revealed that an officer “discharged his firearm and an occupant of the apartment was struck,” but made no mention of an armed standoff all but answers that question.
There is, however, available information regarding the warrants that were served after the shooting and the targets of those warrants.
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About two weeks after the shooting, police got additional arrest warrants for the alleged dealer, who had already been arrested in the raid on the townhouse, and his brother, saying the pair had access to a locked closet in the apartment where a backpack containing drugs was found.
Police also got arrest warrants for two women and a man who were in the apartment with Bolton when police entered. The warrants charge all three with possession of a gun despite prior felony convictions after one gun was found in the kitchen and another in a bedroom. The man also had a backpack containing cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines, a warrant says.
Bolton’s sister, Daphne Bolton, said that the family wanted to get details of the shooting before going public with Bolton’s case. But months came and went without them receiving that information. Now, the family wants the world to know what’s going on.
“For almost six months, we gave them quiet,” Daphne told AP. “That lets me know that’s not what gets a response.”
“I want my brother’s name to ring beside Breonna Taylor’s,” she continued. “When they say Breonna Taylor, I want them to say Breonna Taylor and Johnny Lorenzo Bolton. I want them to be simultaneous.”
Daphne also said that, in the past, her brother had run-ins with the law and had done prison time in the past—not that any of that matters since Bolton wasn’t the target of any warrants.
“He always told me, he said, ‘Baby Sis, I’m gonna get better.’ I said, ‘I know you are,’” she said through tears. “I never gave up hope that he would get better. Now I, unfortunately, will never get to see that day.”