Fulton County prosecutors recently released police reports about a May 2018 police-involved standoff and shooting in Sandy Springs that paint a different picture of what led up to the incident than the one police publicly displayed at the time.

The state Attorney General’s office said that, under Georgia law, Sandy Springs city officials were wrong in their refusal to release the reports, which the Reporter eventually obtained from county prosecutors.

City officials in 2018 said the shooting followed a burglary gone wrong. In a press release issued at the time, police said a 15-year-old burglary suspect was shot several times after a three-hour standoff with police that ended when he tried to flee. During the standoff, the teen threatened suicide several times, police said, and at one point fired on officers. The teen was taken to a hospital in stable condition, the release said.

But the newly released reports, filed by Sandy Springs officers at the time but withheld by the city for 20 months, said the May 11, 2018, shooting followed a gathering attended by several teenagers who had permission to use a friend’s apartment. The apartment leaseholder’s son gave the teens the apartment fob and permission to stay there while his family was away on vacation.

Marlon Jones, 15 at the time, and three other underage males were drinking beer, smoking marijuana and throwing water balloons at construction workers at the Modera apartment complex at 6125 Roswell Road before the shooting, the reports say.

“What [the apartment leaseholder’s son] did not give permission for the offenders to do was take $15,000 in cash, $6,500 in coins and $5,000 in jewelry that were hidden in the master bedroom closet,” the report said.

When they were arrested, two of the teens held large amounts of cash and coins, police reported at the time.

According to the report, officers on scene told officers headed there that one suspect, Jones, fled, ran out of his shoes, dropped a marijuana pipe and scaled a fence behind the Animal Emergency Center at 228 Sandy Springs Place.

“Upon scaling the fence, Jones, who was armed with a silver-in-color handgun, discharged the firearm one time,” the report said.

Once he was confronted by multiple officers, Jones placed the gun to this head and sat against the south wall of the animal hospital, the report said. His action activated the North Atlanta Metro SWAT team and the North Atlanta Metro crisis negation team.

After hours of negotiations, Jones placed the gun several feet away from his body, but then was able to retrieve his gun and point it directly at several SWAT officers, the report said.
“As a result of pointing the gun at the officers, Marlon Jones was shot in the arm and leg,” the report said.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s office still is reviewing the police shooting, along with two others that occurred in May 2018 and March 2019, to determine whether they were legally justified. It is unclear when the investigations will be completed.

Jones, now 17, pleaded guilty in Fulton County Superior Court on Jan. 7, 2019, on seven counts of aggravated assault; seven counts of felony obstruction; possession of a firearm under 18; discharge of a firearm on property; reckless conduct; possession of drug paraphernalia; and possession of alcohol by a person younger than age 21, according to prosecutors.

Jones was sentenced to 10 years and will serve five years as an adult, District Attorney’s office spokesperson Chris Hopper said. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections website, Jones is serving his sentence at the Burruss Correctional Training Center in Forsyth.

According to Hopper, two of the other juveniles have pleaded guilty, served their time and, under Georgia’s First Offender Act, their records are sealed and restricted. The third juvenile pleaded guilty for an underage alcohol offense and served three months, Hopper said.

Open Records law

The District Attorney’s office, responding to a request from Reporter Newspapers under the state Open Records Act, released the initial Sandy Springs police reports in February.

City officials in Sandy Springs had twice refused to release the reports, actions which a state assistant attorney general said did not comply with state law. The Attorney General’s office oversees enforcement of the state’s Open Records Act.

“I can contact the city attorney and let him know that somebody there needs some training,” Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo said in an email. She said she would write to city officials to remind them of the rules on release of public records.

In January, the City Clerk’s office did not provide the incident reports for the two May 2018 cases, citing an exemption for cases being under investigation by an outside agency. City officials maintained that refusal after David Hudson, an attorney and board member of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said that under Georgia’s Open Records Act, the exemption does not apply to initial incident reports or arrest records.

Assistant Attorney General Colangelo also said the city should have provided the initial police reports.

“Sandy Springs should have given you the initial incident report, regardless of whether there was an investigation or who was doing an investigation or prosecution,” Colangelo said in a Feb. 7 email.

Hannah Greco

Hannah Greco is writer and media communications specialist based in Atlanta.