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Family of teen slain by police still seeking justice

By Kalin Thomas Contributing Writer | 3/1/2013, noon
The family of a local teenager killed by a Union City policeman in 2011 says they will press on with ...
Attorney Mawuli “Mel” Davis stands with Freda Waiters and supporters at a press conference regarding the closing of the criminal investigation on the killing of her son by a white police officer in Union City. (Photo by Vincent Christie).

ATLANTA – The family of a local teenager killed by a Union City policeman in 2011 says they will press on with a lawsuit against the department even though U.S. Attorney Sally Yates has decided against pursuing the case further with the FBI.

“We were informed that, based on their investigation, they did not believe they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Luther Lewis, in shooting Ariston Waiters in the back, intentionally violated his civil rights,” said the family’s attorney, Mawuli “Mel” Davis.

Neither the FBI nor Yates’ office responded this week to repeated calls for comment.

The teenager’s mother, meanwhile, is resolute in her search for justice.

“This past year has been the most trying and inspirational year of my life,” Freda Waiters said, choking back tears during a recent news conference. “Though justice was not served in my favor… I will continue to fight for justice for my son.”

Police said Lewis, who is white, shot and killed 19-year-old Waiters on Dec. 14, 2011 as the officer tried to detain him following an alleged altercation. But witnesses say Waiters was face down on the ground when Lewis shot him twice in the back. A grand jury refused to indict Lewis.

Waiters, meanwhile, is just one of 12 black males killed by police or security officers in metro Atlanta in the past 18 months. None of the officers has been charged.

In recent developments in those cases:

• Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard called the fatal police shooting of 19-year-old Joetavious Stafford “justified” in a statement regarding the Oct. 15, 2011 shooting incident at the Vine City MARTA station.

Police said officer Robert Waldo, who is white, shot and killed Stafford after an alleged altercation. Witnesses, however, said Stafford was on the ground and unarmed when he was shot in the back. Stafford’s family filed a civil lawsuit last year.

• Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter ruled recently that the police killing of 15-year-old Dawntree Williams also was justified.

Police said Williams, a mental health patient, was shot and killed as he threatened officers with a machete on the front porch of his grandmother’s home. But witnesses said Williams had already dropped the machete as he walked toward police. No lawsuit has yet been filed.

• Waiters family attorney Davis is waiting for DeKalb County district attorney Robert James to complete an investigation into the police killing of Trevion Davis, a 14-year-old boy killed while coming out of a home during an alleged robbery last June.

Davis said the Waiters family, meanwhile, now will move forward with the lawsuit on behalf of Waiters’ 19-month-old daughter, which was on hold until the criminal investigations were complete.

“We now expect to have all files from the criminal investigations released to us, so that we can have an opportunity to put Luther Lewis on the stand to find out the reason he pursued Ariston Waiters in the first place,” he said. “We feel that’s critically important, because Ariston had done nothing wrong.”