Investigators have made an arrest in the murder of a Fulton County deputy found shot to death in his car in northwest Atlanta.
At a press conference Tuesday, officials with the Atlanta Police Department and Mayor Andre Dickens said 26-year-old Alton Oliver was identified, arrested, and charged Monday for the shooting death of 24-year-old Deputy James Thomas.
“Lead detectives was able to identify a suspect, get him apprehended by Zone 1 patrol officers and he is in custody,” said Atlanta Police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr.
According to authorities, officers were originally called to the scene on Bolton Road and Payton Road at around 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 29 after reports of a shooting. They found a car that had been in a crash with the victim still inside.
“The suspect was on foot and there was some type of argument that escalated to the gunfire,” said Deputy Chief Hampton.
Investigators later identified the victim as Thomas.
Atlanta police investigators spoke to the driver of a van who heard gunshots and called 911.
“The van observed the victim’s vehicle kind of driving erratically in the middle of the road on Bolton Road,” Atlanta police investigator Peter Malecki said. “When they went to pass that vehicle is when they believe they heard gunfire.”
At the time, investigators think that Thomas was killed after the crash. They do not believe Oliver and Thomas knew each other and that the shooting stemmed from a dispute that turned deadly.
Oliver remains in custody in the Cobb County Jail charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, and more.
Investigators say Oliver did not have a criminal history outside a few traffic infractions.
Police say they have charged as 26-year-old suspect with the murder of a Fulton County deputy found shot to death in his car.
Hampton credited good police work, modern technology, and help from the public with Monday’s arrest in the case.
“It shows the work of citizens. The 911 caller, some truck drivers who had some dash cam videos and just the technology that the city of Atlanta has that leads to investigations and success like this,” the deputy chief said.
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat called Thomas “the life of the party” and a “good spirit,” who he personally hired from a law enforcement agency south of Atlanta.
“He was an outstanding young man. We personally recruited him from another agency down south specifically because of his energy and the love for what he brought to our agency,” Labat said.
Labat said the deputy worked on Wednesday night before he was found dead.
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat and an Atlanta police homicide investigator discuss the deadly shooting of a deputy.
Thomas grew up in Mississippi, and locals say he knew what he wanted to be from a young age.
“Every time we would come through the neighborhood, he was just excited to see the officers he would flag us down,” said Chief Terence Crump, with the Edwards, Miss. police department. “He was really a blessing, because most kids his age, law enforcement wasn’t on the radar for them.”
Chief Crump said he took Thomas under his wing and helped him get his start in law enforcement.
The last time they spoke was less than 24 hours before he was last seen alive.
“I asked him [last] Tuesday if he had any plans of returning one day, and he said only if I could come back as a chief of police somewhere.”
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and Crime Stoppers had offered a $30,000 reward for anyone who has information that could lead to the arrest of Thomas’ killer.